Improving employee performance is most effective when it’s a top-down process, and because of that, companies often focus on leadership training. In the United States alone, an annual $14 billion on training leaders illustrates the importance of leadership training. A great leader can make all the difference for your business.
Unfortunately, leadership training efforts frequently fail to produce the desired performance improvement. It’s easy to motivate employees temporarily or to teach them skills in a workshop. Maintaining motivation and help them put those skills into practice on-the-job is much harder. Moreover, it’s an even larger challenge for employees to change their company culture and engender real organizational improvement.
Leadership Training from the Top Down
There are a few core reasons why leadership training efforts often don’t succeed. Executives think of leadership training as a way for individual employees to learn and grow. Then, those employees are expected to create change within their teams. However, the organizational systems within the company usually prove too powerful to be affected by individuals. Even the most motivational leadership training programs fail if internal structures, processes, and culture push back. For leadership training to engender lasting improvements, everything at the company has to be aligned, including leadership, management, HR, and individual employees. In short, leadership training should support structural changes; it shouldn’t be expected to lead changes.
Bottom-up Buy-in & Support
Learning initiatives tend to focus on executive buy-in, but change has to come from management at all levels and at least most of the affected employees. After all, your processes are executed by your employees. There are a few key tactics to increase employee buy-in:
- Communicate why the change is happening
- Detail the new processes
- Emphasize ideal outcomes
- Seek feedback
Feedback is the tactic that’s most often neglected, but it’s the key to getting your employees actively engaged and get them to support organizational change. Typically, feedback is from learners who have finished a course. However, this doesn’t take into account underutilized resources: the employees most impacted by process changes. Capture the impressions of the individual contributors that compose the teams that answer to your newly trained leaders. For example, build a rubric to measure the competencies targeted by your leadership training content. After the training deploys, have your individual contributors score the performance of their respective leaders on a 30-60-90-day model. Then, you can track skills maintenance and base continuous learning initiatives on tangible performance data.
Mobile platforms are a convenient way to integrate training into day-to-day processes. Performance support platforms like Siteline make information easy to access, so training consumption and employee engagement are sure to increase. For instance, one study found that their learners completed training on mobile platforms 45% faster than their peers using computers.
Microlearning can also help integrate training into employee processes and make it easier for your learners to apply new techniques while working. For example, BeautyCounter wanted to develop consultative sales practices. Their training solution used micro-modules to prepare learners for client conversations with access to product information and sales tactics in the field. Quick videos with actionable tips and tricks helped learners apply training content to their sales practices and help with some last-minute preparation when needed.
A well-designed learning portal can integrate with your performance management systems, sales platforms, and systems of record. This is crucial when you actually plan to measure the success of your training and plan continuous development initiatives around that data. Generally, a learning portal is instrumental in getting your training off the ground, but that’s really because it makes your content accessible. The best training content will be ineffective if people can’t find it.
Design transformative learning experiences that embed your new leadership practices into the systems, processes, and culture of your workplace. Successful leadership training has to be more than training content. The best learning strategy will consider the whole of the employee experience: top-down and bottom-up. The usual strategies like mobile learning, microlearning, and learning portals can certainly help, but they’re more like additions to your underlying design.
Great leadership training can motivate your workforce, improve performance, and theoretically drive revenue to outperform the competition. But, without complete buy-in from all of those affected, chances are the initiative will fail. Remember, leadership training should support changes that your company is making as a whole—it can’t solely drive wide-scale changes to company structure or company culture.