Leadership programs are costly. And companies invest a significant amount in their budget. According to one study, companies invest $15 billion in leadership programs every year. But the efficacy of the program is often called into question. And a number of surveys indicate that many employees are dissatisfied with their leaders. Terry Traut of STEP Consulting delivered an enthusiastic session on the need for “stickiness” in leadership development programs at the SME Talent Week Virtual Conference organized by People Matters. Highlighting 23 elements drawn from research and experience of working with a number of companies, he noted that a number of steps geared at making the programs effective and to challenge and motivate leaders today.
Here are three issue areas that companies need to focus on:
Executive support and organizational buy-in: Often, programs are launched but are not on the radar of executives in the company. The result of this is that the value of the program is not effectively communicated and there is less focus on the delivery and execution of the initiative. It is therefore important to get a senior level champion and a broad-based buy-in, align the program with organizational goals and ensure that senior leaders have the capacity to model and reinforce the skills that the program is focused on.
Program Design: At the heart of the program design is the need for simplicity. Often programs are designed such that participants are taught complicated ideas. The challenge with this approach is that participants don’t know how to apply them in their day-to-day activities.
The medium or mode of delivery is also important. Is the training going to be a face-to-face one? Virtual? Or Self-paced? How relevant and applicable is the method to the context of the company and the individual? These question help in framing the program.
Another area of program design that needs attention is feedback and engagement. This means creating engaging activities throughout the program and use 360 degree surveys. It is also important to select trainers carefully and even train and support your trainers.
Skills application and on-going support: The goal of a learning and development program is not just to impart great lessons but the goal is to also ensure that such learning is made applicable and practiced as well. L&D professionals should focus on ensuring that there are enough opportunities to practice the skills the employees are trained for. Regular touch point and multiple levels of support is also an important part of the training program.
In the end, it is useful to remember that leadership development is a journey and not a destination. To that end, it is important to rinse and repeat all the principles that make an effective leadership program “stick”.