Creating a pipeline for success
According to business leader and former General Electric (GE) CEO, Jack Welch, an organisation’s ability to translate learning into action is its ultimate competitive advantage writes Rosie Cairnes.
In Jack Welch’s 21 years as CEO, the company increased 4,000 per cent and realised a market capitalisation of more than $US400 billion. His approaches to leadership development and management have since been adopted by organisations all over the world and his proven methodologies echoed throughout Learning and Development (L&D) circles.
Business leaders recognise the value of investing in sound leadership, as evidenced by a Bersin by Deloitte survey* (2013) that shows organisations are spending more on leadership development than ever before. However, the same survey showed 75 per cent of respondents say their organisation’s leadership development programs miss the mark in terms of effectiveness; three quarters of leadership teams surveyed failed to achieve business goals; and more than half of global executives cite lack of leadership as a reason the company does not manage market changes effectively.
WHY IS THERE A DISCONNECT AND WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?
Many organisations still rely on traditional leadership development methods; focused on classroom, resource-intensive, face-to-face learning. Furthermore, a significant proportion of L&D dollars are invested in those in the highest ranks of the organisation.
In today’s ‘overextended’, ever-changing work landscape, leaders are under immense pressure from stakeholders, the board and shareholders to perform – and perform fast. As baby boomers move towards retirement, leadership positions are coming to younger and less experienced team members. Many show high potential but do not have the luxury of experience to attain ‘lift-off’ as quickly as the future business climate will demand.
To prevent critical skill gaps in the future and keep the organisation performing at a high level, strategic de- cisions must be made to ensure leaders and supported and nurtured.
CHANGING LEARNING LANDSCAPE
Leadership development has evolved rapidly over the last few years to better serve the global marketplace and keep pace with technological change. Moving forward, the most successful organisations will adapt learning to fit the diverse needs of leaders at all levels, as they realise a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for today’s professionals in today’s work context.
As modern workplaces become more mobile, social and flexible, business leaders must look to new technologies that can deliver a higher productivity and return on investment. The Welch Way is a unique program developed by Jack Welch. As a set of outcome-based elearning programs, it delivers the core leadership skills all managers need; through action-based, practical methods. By tailoring learning informally and delivering it through continuous, micro-bursts of training experiences, memory retention increases and learning is more likely to be implemented into daily practice.
SO WHAT CAN BUSINESS LEADERS DO TODAY TO MAKE SURE FUTURE LEADERS SUCCEED IN THEIR ROLES?
• Encourage leadership at all levels: In a global, competitive business climate, leaders must identify leadership as a collective endeavour and an on-going process in order to ‘prime the leadership pipeline’ and strengthen all layers of the organisation. Astute leaders encourage leadership behaviours among all members of their team. This makes employees more accountable for their actions and removes organisational barriers; encouraging greater responsibility, innovation, problem-solving abilities and the motivation to succeed. When employees are empowered to take on leadership roles earlier on in their careers, they are in a better, more experienced position to “step up” to a leadership role later on. • Collaboration with L&D teams: Leaders must make sure business goals, growth opportunities and desired organisational outcomes are visible and transparent to L&D teams. This way, teams are in a better position to develop pragmatic, actionable programs and strategies which hit the mark on organisational need. Giving HR exposure to business decisions made at the top will help identify and deliver new resources that complement the ‘modern business environment’. • Keep pace with current technologies: Despite constantly evolving work environments, organisations have been slow to adapt to technologies that assist in delivering stronger leadership development outcomes. Professionals today demand the right to work more flexibly – and have appropriate mobile devices to support their work. Moving forward business leaders will see a better response to learning initiatives, and deliver a stronger return on investment if they embrace new technologies which synchronise leadership development into daily work flows. Investing in dynamic leadership development programs at all levels will provide a framework to help prepare an organisation’s current and potential leaders for the myriad of business challenges ahead of them. Those leaders that accept the challenge of developing skilled leaders, will leave a strong legacy and a footprint for future success. • Five Trends in Leveraging Leadership Development to Drive a Competitive Advantage by Bersin by Deloitte (2013). Rosie Cairnes is Regional Leader Australia and New Zealand at Skillsoft Asia Pacific.