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Professional Partner Content

Creating a Culture of Learning, Part IV

Published Wed Jan 30 2019


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Last time, we explored how loyalty in the workplace has changed and why organizations should focus on alignment over longevity, especially when it comes to culture. We discussed how working longer at a company doesn't result in more loyalty or productivity, and that companies should instead focus on developing employees whose values and goals are aligned with that of the company.

One of those values includes leadership. We surveyed more than 2,000 people at companies across the United States to find out how leadership is valued within companies and how leaders are hired and developed. Our recent research showed that most employees said leaders are promoted from within, but less than half (44.4 percent) are actively being developed for future leadership positions. So, many leaders aren't getting the learning opportunities they need.

As many Baby Boomers are beginning to retire, HR and L&D departments are facing two big challenges: Companies are losing some of their best leaders and struggling to find people with the right skills; and, filling the soft skills gap may be more challenging than we thought.

Leaders with strong soft skills can help to create agile and innovative organizations and make a company one of the best place to work. Research from DDI identifies critical competencies for leaders that overlap with these skills.

The Skills Your Leaders Need

  • Decision-making, delegating, problem-solving: Evaluating alternatives, making timely decisions, and assigning tasks and responsibilities to individuals or teams.

  • Communicating: Clarifying purpose, developing ideas, and agreeing on next steps.

  • Technical knowledge and expertise: Applying skills to improve processes, procedures, and operations.

  • Planning and organizing: Setting priorities, establishing timelines, and leveraging resources.

  • Coaching and mentoring: Preparing employees to excel in new challenges and addressing performance problems.

  • Gaining commitment: Building trust, encouraging two-way communication, and strengthening relationships.

With great leadership in place, company culture is naturally developed, not forced, because leaders can influence their teams' engagement and loyalty. Valuing these essential leadership skills can cultivate great leaders, and, in turn, more engaged employees.

A slight majority (54.5 percent) of those surveyed said their company valued at most two of these essential leadership skills. We found that companies who valued these skills also placed greater value on internal development. In these companies, employees appreciated their leaders more. . . and productivity was higher. While we don't know if the support or the good leaders came first, we do know that effective training and company support for a variety of trainings were positively related to company value for good leadership.

Companies that want to stay competitive can't afford to have poor leadership, and simply trusting that good leadership will just happen isn't enough. HR and L&D managers may feel that basic skills training satisfies the desire for leaders to learn more. But, educating your current and future leaders on these soft skills is essential to company culture and health.

Instead of afterthoughts, make culture and development priorities.

Your Leaders Are the Life Force of Your Culture

Strong culture attracts top talent. Strong leadership is a matter of your company's longevity.

By valuing crucial skills, you can improve the quality of your leadership and inspire engaged employees who align with your company's mission. A strong culture has many important, layered facets, and the right kind of leadership is just one of them.

This post was adapted from Bridge's e-book, "Strong Culture, Strong Leaders." Download the full e-book here.

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