Driving a development culture

What is your organisation’s investment in developing its people?

No doubt, the L&D budget comes immediately to mind. But, what about the not so obvious costs, such as those associated with getting people up to speed in new assignments, the efforts of managers in performance management and career development, the cost of job rotations or paid time off for study?

Taking all these things into account simply provides an added incentive to maximise the return on investment and take a more holistic view of what constitutes development. A lament we have heard too often lately concerns the challenge of sustaining professional development beyond an initial program or event.

What this takes is a conscious effort over time, focused on two key elements – people and systems. Most people want to grow and develop, do well and be rewarded for their achievements; and organisations need a support system in place to help them. Importantly, managers need to be active participants in the process, as nothing much will happen without their ability, interest and commitment.

Six ways to sustain people development within your organisation

  1. Ensure development initiatives are aligned to business strategy – People need to know that what they are working on will not only help them be successful personally but also contribute to the organisation’s goals.
  2. Set targets for development – Provide role clarity through success profiles that differentiate skills by level and target high performance in the job. People are more motivated to work on skills that are recognised and rewarded based on their importance.
  3. Differentiate your development offerings – People are not all the same, they have different skills, talent, motivation, values and ambition. So, whilst all people need opportunities for development, they need them in different ways. One needs the challenge of new and different assignments, whilst another wants to deepen their expertise in their particular field.
  4. Empower your managers – Managers must embrace their responsibility for developing others. However many managers are not comfortable discussing a person’s skills or giving tough feedback but these are essential aspects to what can be ultimately a very rewarding experience, developing others.   Start with simple briefing sessions on what skills are important, how skills are built and the difference between performance and potential.
  5. Make development plans personal – There are different types of development need – a weakness that needs to be a strength, an average skill that needs to be superior, an overused skill that needs to be toned down. Add to this the nature of the need – is it a single competency or a cluster of similar skills?  Is it difficult for anyone to develop or specific to the person? Should they find another way to work around it?  People generally respond well to this broadband approach to needs analysis and development planning.
  6. Offer the right tools to kick-start development  – People need resources to create and implement a development plan. A range of self-assessment instruments, sources of feedback and clearly laid out options for skill development are essential.
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Generation Y: Building tomorrow’s leaders

Generation Y, or Gen Y, is the name given to the generation of people born between 1980 and 1994. They represent the single largest generation in history and by 2025 will make up 75% of the world’s workforce. Some other facts about Gen Y:

Gen Y’s currently make up 20% of the Australian population
Almost half of them have been to university
They are the most highly educated cohort ever to enter the workforce
They have higher expectations of promotion than previous generations
One in four change jobs in any given year.

Tips for Managing Gen Y Employees in Your Organisation

Working successfully with Gen Y employees can require some adaptation and flexibility on the part of their manager. For example, if they want to make their mark by trying new ways of doing things it shouldn’t be seen as a rejection of established practices in the organisation. Here are 6 tips for managing Gen Y employees in your organisation:

1.  Knowledge

Gen Y employees have a strong desire for knowledge and learning; and will often demand workplace training as part of their employment conditions. Lack of personal development, along with limited opportunity for progression, are major factors in why Gen Y’s leave organisations. Managers should plan for this and aim to provide ongoing learning that is mutually beneficial to the employee and the organisation.

2.  Feedback

Gen Y’s need plenty of feedback and recognition. Having grown up in an era where these were freely given in school, they expect it. They are happiest when they are being listened to and respected and will perform better if this is so. They want to feel they are working towards a purpose and this will encourage them to stay motivated.

3.  Flexibility

Research shows that Gen Y’s want work-life balance and are strong advocates of flexible hours and working from home. The saying ‘work smarter not harder’ resonates strongly with them. With this in mind, managers should factor in a flexible work/life plan to suit both the employee and the business.

4.  Technology

Gen Y’s are more technologically savvy than any previous generation. They use the Internet widely in everyday social interaction and for sourcing business information. Over 75% of them have a profile on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Their managers can tap into this capability to help drive technology-based innovation in their business.

5.  Teamwork

Gen Y employees value teamwork because they enjoy participation, interaction and collaborative decision-making. As a result, they appreciate managers who pay attention to building effective teams. Because they like environments that are social and fun, managers should also ensure they make time to debrief and celebrate team successes.

6.  Career Development

Most Gen Y’s will expect a pay increase within a short period of time in a job, along with good prospects of promotion. Whilst this may not always be feasible, managers can ensure they are being given new challenges, are included in decision-making and have access to coaching and mentoring so they feel their needs are being recognised.

So, does this seem like managing Gen Y’s is hard work? If it does, consider this. Gen Y’s are energised by challenge. They find new tasks and jobs as opportunities to grow. They enjoy finding new ways to do things, as well as connecting with and learning from other people. Managers who account for the wants and needs of their Gen Y staff will find a refreshing flexibility among them. In addition, they are more likely to support organisational change as long as they are provided with the rationale for the change and have the opportunity to explore and discuss the associated pros and cons.

 

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Ensuring leaders succeed in transition to a new job

The early days in a job are challenging for most newly appointed leaders. Even if they feel well equipped for the new role, they have a lot to learn about their organisation and its people, culture and way of working. Many people feel they can intuitively do this. After all, they have been successful in previous roles.

At first, it’s easy to put effort into ‘what’ to do in the new job at the expense of ‘how’ to go about it. Early mistakes such as failing to understand the culture, clarify the expectations of stakeholders or misreading group dynamics can be hard to recover from later on.

In most large organisations, up to 25 per cent of managers take on a new position in any given year. That is a lot of people facing different responsibilities, learning new skills and coming to terms with fresh challenges!

What Research Tells Us

Research shows that up to 40 per cent of promoted leaders will fall short of expectations in the first eighteen months and the risk is even greater for newcomers to the organisation. When leaders fail, everyone suffers. Morale, productivity and revenue all take a hit. What we know is that:

  • Companies who invest time and resources in onboarding enjoy the highest levels of employee engagement.
  • Individuals who fail to adapt and develop as the surrounding context changes are at risk of derailment.
  • Unsuccessful leadership transitions have a negative impact on the credibility of the selection process.

The cost of turnover at the executive level can be 2 to 3 times annual remuneration. The cost is too great to leave successful transitions to chance.

Onboarding programs that consist of a company induction combined with individual coaching reduce the risk as they ensure that people get off to a good start and build momentum for longer-term success. Everyone Wins!

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Four ways to advance the representation of women at the top

  • Today, more women graduate from university than men and yet far fewer make it to senior executive roles in organisations.
  • The percentage of women on ASX 200 boards is 15.4% and of those companies 52% have no women on their boards.[1]
  • Some 78% of women now leave their middle and upper management positions to start their own business.[2]

A challenge for women

A Harvard Business Review study conducted by Boris Groysberg and Deborah Bell found many leaders see a greater representation of women at the top of organisations is key to diversity and sustainability. At the same time, we have all heard the line that there are simply not enough skilled and experienced women around.

Here lies a challenge – women lag behind men in getting the type of assignments that prepare people for success at the top, such as those with P&L responsibility, heavy strategic demands and high visibility from top management. Understandably, it’s hard to sustain a career long term without the right experiential learning.

Agility is the key

In his article “The Importance of Agility” in Human Resource Executive online, Andrew McIlvaine says that in times of unprecedented change and uncertainty, we need to ensure that leaders have the requisite agility to not only operate in unchartered watersbut to thrive in them.

Agility has been a theme for Lominger International for two decades, after successful executives were found to embrace new and diverse challenges and integrate and draw numerous and varied lessons from them. In other words they are “learning agile”. Here is another opportunity to help women keep pace in development.

Helping women advance their careers

  1. Give women the opportunity to understand and develop their learning agility
    Women (and men!) benefit enormously from knowing where they stand now on learning agility. It is a measurable trait that can be developed. Coaching and self-help resources such Lominger’s Agile Leader series are useful for becoming a more agile leader.
  2. Ensure organisational career paths are identified and open to women
    When an organisation identifies its most critical jobs, any bias against women must be overcome so they are included in succession plans. Career pathways that are visible to themselves and others and appropriate development planning will help them stay the course to realise their potential.
  3. Support women in making successful leadership transitions
    Each step up the corporate ladder brings a new set of requirements in terms of skill, complexity of work and focus of effort. Navigating these changes at each transition is essential for long-term career success. Stephen Drotter’s book “The Performance Pipeline” is a good resource for understanding what it takes.
  4. Give women opportunities to build their professional network
    Women can often be distracted by the variety of roles they play in their lives – partner, mother, daughter, sister, etc. With so many facets to their lives, they may need encouragement to build a network of peers inside and outside the organisation, as well as finding mentors to help guide their path.

[1] Women in Leadership Report, CEDA, June 2013

[2] National Survey of Women Business Owners, Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, March 2012

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Why leaders must read

At LDN we are avid readers of books and articles on all aspects of leadership success and development. We refer to many of them when we lead seminars and workshops, and are often asked to recommend readings on specific topics, our latest discoveries or our all-time favourites.

On the other hand, we regularly hear the lament “I’m just not a reader, I am simply too busy.” These words should sound a warning if they come from those who aspire to key leadership roles.

It’s not good enough in the information age to say they haven’t got time or just never got into the habit of reading. People who favour action over reflection, and today’s tasks over preparing for the future, will one day be left behind.

Staying on top of your game

Reading is essential to keep up to date on the latest trends in your field. Just as the body needs to be nurtured with good diet, exercise and sleep, the mind needs to be broadened with new ways of thinking. Time regularly set aside to absorb ideas outside the realm of everyday experience helps leaders build capacity to deal with new and unfamiliar challenges.

Personal development

Besides increasing general knowledge, reading has other benefits. It engages different parts of the brain that call on the ability to comprehend, imagine and develop ideas. Processing the written word is more complex than talking to a friend or watching a movie. Classical literature, in particular, uses more precise and elegant language than everyday conversation, increasing vocabulary and capacity for critical thinking.

Enhancing emotional intelligence

Reading about business makes good sense, but what about fiction? Keith Oatley, professor emeritus in cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto, says that reading fiction enhances a person’s emotional intelligence through greater understanding of both the characters and human nature in general. A novelist himself, Oatley believes fiction offers the opportunity to experience emotions in books that people would not otherwise encounter.

Reducing stress

Reading can be a wonderful escape from the stress of everyday life. Research shows it slows the heart rate and eases tension in muscles in just a few minutes. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that silent reading lowered stress by 68 percent, beating listening to music (61 percent) and taking a walk (42 percent).

Five tips for making reading easier

  1. Subscribe to an executive book summary service to access summaries you can read in about 10 minutes.
  2. Buy the book if you want to explore it in depth, in hard copy or soft copy for your electronic reader.
  3. Subscribe to business journals that carry articles relevant to your business or industry.
  4. Find a couple of websites that have articles and blogs on topics of specific interest to you.
  5. Share your reading with your team so you can challenge each other on decisions you need to make.

 

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