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The Top 7 Leadership Development Challenges to Focus on Right Now

The world of work has changed for good. At first, we thought the changes to our work lives brought on by the pandemic would be temporary. But now it’s clear that they are here to stay. Leaders must accept these changes head-on. And that means considering a new set of top leadership development challenges.

Start embracing change by providing your organization’s leaders with these seven tactics to tackle the new normal:

1. Lead remote teams. Leaders are on the front lines leading remote teams. But most organizations weren’t prepared for the abrupt change to virtual to become permanent in many cases. In our webinar with leading industry analyst Josh Bersin, we discuss how leaders at every level may be in virtual leadership roles for the first time, and that’s a major challenge, especially to maintain for the long term. Leaders need help connecting with, engaging, and retaining the people who report to them. Many may struggle to keep a pulse on how their team members are feeling.

Companies need to provide new tools to help leaders reinforce their communication and coaching skills. Improving these skills makes a huge difference in engaging and retaining employees through this crisis and beyond.

2. Create a better virtual experience. The shift to remote work is also driving companies to seek out and purchase new virtual tools for learning. In our survey, 97 percent of companies said they are either now using virtual classroom training or are actively looking to buy it for their leaders. This trend will likely continue for the long term.

3. Make learning relevant. Our ongoing impact research has consistently shown that learning relevance is key. Otherwise, development doesn’t stick. Leaders need to connect what they learn to the challenges they face on the job.

Relevance is especially important as leaders are overwhelmed with so much information. Thus, they are more likely to take advantage of professional development opportunities when they can directly see the effect on their job.

Companies can reinforce learning by clearly communicating how development is valuable to career growth. Furthermore, they should show development is valued by senior leaders and a critical part of business strategy.

4. Prioritize flexibility to drive retention. Just as employees navigate major changes to their work lives, they likely continue to face multiple challenges at home. As employees juggle care for their children and elderly parents, it’s crucial that leadership development activities are flexible.

5. Adapt to technology. Digital transformation isn’t new. But for most companies, the pandemic accelerated these changes.

As companies deploy new technologies for leadership development, leaders and businesses will both benefit. By learning new tools and the broader technology landscape, leaders can better understand and identify new opportunities for technology to drive their transformation. And that can quickly turn into major new business opportunities.

6. Reinforce empathy. Given the pressures that everyone in the workforce is facing, empathy is now a more important leadership skill than ever.

Leaders who listen and respond with empathy are better able to connect with their employees and make them feel understood. Our ongoing global research shows that empathetic leaders are also far more likely to have engaged teams and to retain talent.

7. Drive employee engagement. Employee engagement is always a valuable outcome for companies. But 79 percent of business leaders said it’s even more important as a result of the pandemic. Leadership development programs can support the essential role that leaders play in driving better engagement and demonstrate to their employees that their organization is a great place to work.

Learn more in DDI’s blog.

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Very enlightening and confirming content!
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