The Year Ahead in Leadership and Training

Three factors that will have an impact on leadership and development in 2012.

By Halley Bock, CEO, Fierce, Inc.

Sluggish economic recovery, the debt crisis in Europe, and ongoing political uncertainty are creating challenges for many businesses, particularly when it comes to human capital management. Even for companies that have not had to lay off employees, hiring, retaining, and advancing top talent has become not only a challenge but a threat to the long-term health of the business. As companies continue to face these challenges in 2012, effective collaboration and communication will become mission critical in maintaining a business’ health, and human resource directors and CLOs will have to adopt new practices and new perspectives to meet them. Here are three factors that will have an impact on leadership and development in 2012, and strategies that can be implemented to help guide an organization through these new waters:

1. Businesses invest in their growth with new training initiatives. With the economy still faltering, many businesses are struggling with how to recruit, train, and retain top talent. As a result of the lackluster economic rebound, many employees at or near retirement age won’t be exiting the workforce as planned, limiting the opportunities for members of younger generations to reach the next rung of the corporate ladder. In 2012, businesses will begin investing more in training and leadership development to foster the continued growth of employees whose advancement within the company may be delayed.

To keep younger talent engaged and foster their continued growth in this environment, it is critical to provide alternative avenues for personal growth and development in the workplace. Implement training initiatives at all levels of the organization that emphasize the importance of a lattice—as opposed to ladder—model of development. Rather than rising through the ranks, focus on a collaborative approach that values experience and understanding across all segments of the company. Not only will your employees remain challenged and engaged as they expand outward rather than upward, this approach to training and advancement will create future leaders with tremendous variety and depth of experience.

2. E-learning demands will offer challenges and opportunities. In 2011, there was an uptick in the number of employees working remotely, either from home or from offices scattered throughout the globe. This trend will continue in 2012 as mobile and cloud technologies enable the remote office, and businesses increasingly recognize the importance of local offices as they expand into new regions. As disbursed and global teams make up a growing share of the workforce, businesses will look to e-learning initiatives to reach this remote workforce in a cost-effective way.

Teaching effective communication, collaboration, and leadership skills is crucial when a company employs a large number of remote workers. When considering the type of training solution to bring onboard for these employees, human resource and training directors should look at training as an opportunity not only to teach strong communication skills, but to give your remote employees an opportunity to practice effectively interacting from remote locations. Look for e-learning solutions that allow remote workers to interact live with each other and the trainer, and that allow employees to practice the skills they are learning in a virtual environment. Continue to follow up and provide ongoing training opportunities as well—this will ensure the preservation of corporate culture and values, as well as employee engagement, no matter how far apart your workforce happens to be.

3. Diversification of leadership brings new perspectives. In recent years, we’ve seen several Fortune 1000 companies appoint female CEOs. Women now lead global corporations such as Yahoo, PepsiCo, and more recently, IBM. In traditionally male-led industries, notably tech, this trend is indicative of a larger push toward diversifying experience and perspective in order to enable growth and expansion.

Take Hollywood, for example. The Twilightmovies and last summer’s hit, Bridesmaids,were films written by women, directed by women, starred in by women, and targeted at women. Whatever your feelings on the content of the films themselves, they proved something to Hollywood at large: Women are interested in more than formulaic romantic comedies, and when you give them something of real interest, they will spend the money —lots and lots of money—to go see it. By bringing diversity of perspective to the table in the creative process, Hollywood realized it could capitalize on an audience that represents just over 50 percent of the American public.

Likewise, businesses that bring a diversity of perspective open themselves up to new growth opportunities. This is not just men versus women—a diverse perspective can stem from a unique education, differences in socio-economic background, political ideologies, and myriad other factors. Businesses that actively solicit the opinions and thoughts of people throughout their organization and place a high premium on ideas—and leaders—that challenge the status quo, will stand to benefit tremendously.

Halley Bock is the CEO of Seattle-based Fierce, Inc.,a global leadership and development training company that drives results for businesses by improving workplace communication.

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