Developing a Leadership Program for the New Generation

🕑 4 minutes read | Mar 24 2022 | By Becky Gendron

As Gen X and Y begin to comprise the majority of the workforce, the methods used to identify and develop leaders will change. This shift creates a tremendous challenge that will have an impact on organizations today as they develop strategies to turn this large demographic group into the next generation of leaders. In fact, 55% of CEOs list leadership development as their top problem, and recent research shows that leadership and management is the #2 learning and development priority.

The past year has shown conclusively that leadership is essential during periods of uncertainty. Over half of the executives surveyed for Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends report suggested that skillful leadership is vital to navigate the unknown futures that lie ahead. More and more, we’re learning that the old ways of training aren’t meeting the needs of the younger generations of leaders. When the reality of “one size fits all” is that it doesn’t fit most anyone well, it’s time to look for a new approach to leadership training.

Every day, new and emerging technologies are accelerating the need for a workforce with more skills, and the ability to quickly pivot and change. Upskilling and reskilling future leaders with modern competencies and tomorrow’s skills has become a priority, and many organizations are making substantial investments needed to future-proof their people.

In order to upskill their employees, organizations can build a learning track that teaches essential leadership behaviors and competencies. With the adoption of new technologies such as cloud computing and big data analytics, more tasks previously performed by humans are being performed by machines. As a result, the top skills needed in leaders are constantly evolving. According to the World Economic Forum, the top skills in 2025, for example, are expected to be analytical thinking and innovation, active learning and learning strategies, and complex problem-solving. Leaders’ growing expectation that employees will be able to learn these new skills on the job, and the gap between those expectations and the reality of learning new skills will be even wider.

Expert Tips from a TTA Leadership Consultant

Many options exist to deliver training, and it’s important to use a mix of learning techniques to appeal to your audience. For best practices that companies can use when creating a leadership development plan for next-gen leaders, we spoke with TTA learning and development expert Kevin Dwyer. Above all, Kevin notes that organizations need to take a strategic approach when developing a plan for a leadership program. This will help them identify the most pressing business problems that need to be solved, such as becoming more diverse, identifying talent, or helping people communicate effectively.

Communication and Soft Skills

Dwyer explains the need for leaders to have effective communication skills, alongside their technical skills. Better communication and collaboration have been linked to productivity increases as high as 25%, for example. Conversely, miscommunication has been estimated to cost companies—even smaller organizations with 100 employees—an average of $420,000 each year.

Kevin also emphasizes the importance of soft skills, particularly emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ is essential for communication, and it helps leaders build strong relationships. Incorporating EQ training in a leadership program doesn’t just help people identify their own personality and communication needs and the personalities and communication needs of other people, it also gives leaders the skills to build stronger connections that help teams overcome challenges.

Learning Strategies

Effective leadership programs should adopt a variety of learning strategies. Often this could include assessments such as the 360 feedback processes, so trainees can get input about their core skills from colleagues, from managers, and even from customers, as well as suggestions for developing further skills.

Another effective strategy is using interactive training sessions where participants can practice what they’ve learned. Training and workshops can happen online or face to face, and they’re ideal for giving trainees an opportunity to address any skills gaps. Training also helps people build connections. Particularly in smaller organizations, which might have people from many different disciplines coming together for training sessions, Dwyer believes that workshops offer an opportunity to leverage the diversity of experience that people bring from different roles.

Finally, it’s important to give people a chance to try out their new skills on the job, relay how they’ve been able to practice their skills, then give them feedback about ways to continue to improve.

A Checklist for Developing a Leadership Program

After identifying the right strategic approach and learning strategies your leadership training will follow, organizations can use Dwyer’s checklist for developing their leadership program:

  • Make sure the training gives emerging leaders the skills they need to succeed and grow in their roles – identify what skills are important for emerging leaders in your organization
  • Clearly explain how the training will make a difference to individuals, and to the organization
  • Offer training to help leaders identify their true skill sets and their ideal professional career path
  • Create peer support networks to reinforce the training as learners practice their new skills at work

Developing Great Leaders Requires an Agile, Hands-on Approach to Learning

As Millennial and Gen Z employees increasingly move into leadership roles, training and learning approaches should foster teamwork and collaboration. It should focus on upskilling and reskilling leaders to give them the skills and competencies needed to take the organization into the future.

There are many ways to create a leadership program for emerging leaders, and successful leadership training can incorporate a wide range of training modalities. Whatever solutions are chosen, building a successful plan depends on fostering a culture of continuous learning with new technologies and innovative approaches. Listen to your learners so the training remains engaging and effective, then check and adjust to ensure that the training continues to deliver the results you’re looking for.

Learn how TTA has helped other companies develop strong leaders within their organizations.

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