Leadership lag: Are you investing in leadership training? Part 2

Fail to develop your leaders and your whole organization will suffer – both in the short and long term.

By Tom Moriarty, Alidade MER

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There is fierce competition to find and retain qualified tradespersons, supervisors, and managers. If your organization is facing a shortage of skilled labor, it’s especially critical to keep the people you have, and be recognized as a preferred place to work. That depends on your supervisors and managers being productive leaders.

Employers often believe employees walk for a better-paying job. But that’s not the only reason. Tradespersons, and especially those who are highly skilled, will walk in a heartbeat whenever another alternative looks better. Better opportunities appear more readily when workers have the chance to get away from a bad boss. They may say they are leaving to get better pay, career development opportunities, or improved work-life balance. The motivation is to reduce stress. Stress results in reduced productivity and health issues.

Those who are less likely to walk are the ones who are treated fairly and who encounter a consistent, predictable workplace culture. This workplace culture is a result of productive leadership.

A good leadership development program that leverages best-practice tools and information can achieve significant return on investment (ROI) via lower turnover and higher productivity. Recognizing that there is a massive, long-term, skilled worker shortage , organizations can and should do what they can to improve their work environment. A dedicated program to develop productive leadership can improve the workplace, reducing the risk of workers leaving.

Where do employers go wrong when it comes to leadership training? The following are the most common problems.

To learn more, read "Leadership lag: Are you investing in leadership training? Part 1"

Problem 3 - Use it or lose it

Unless training gets applied soon after a training event, people will not retain what they were taught. The brain can hold about seven pieces of new information for only 30 seconds. If you consistently re-expose yourself to the information, it can be retained in working (or short-term) memory for several minutes to several hours. In brain science, this is called memory rehearsal. 

When we sit in a classroom and are bombarded with information, we typically retain that information in short-term memory. To cement information into long-term memory, you need consistent exposure to the basic facts, followed by detailed elaboration of impressions. This is why you were taught a concept in math class and then had to work problems for homework. That process is called elaborative rehearsal. 

To really cement the information, spaced interval repetition of the information is vital. In other words, the most effective way to retain information is to use it often. 

If senior managers and managers aren’t actively looking for leadership skills to be applied, there’s less effort for managers and supervisors to recall and apply leadership training information. Senior leaders drop the ball when they don’t discuss with trainees what leadership behaviors they expect to see and what should improve. There are often no good measures to benchmark. There’s no analysis to confirm the training’s return on investment (ROI).

Does it feel good, or does it do good?

There is a difference between doing something that feels good and doing something that does good. A one-and-done training event feels good. But not acting to implement the training doesn’t do good. What is needed is an actual improvement in leadership – productive leadership.  

Why do feel-good leadership events fail? The main reasons are these:

  • Leadership training is thought to be expensive and ineffective, so it’s often done when managers don’t know what else to do.
  • The content changes every time you change training providers. There’s no consistency with the terminology, topics, tools, or depth with which each subject is covered.
  • When leadership training is infrequent, there is no development of a productive leadership culture.
  • Managers of the training attendees are focused on other things; they aren’t assertive in ensuring that the leadership skills are applied.
  • Organizations don’t measure the right things to know whether the training generated a strong ROI.  

The alternative to no-lasting-good leadership events is a productive leadership development program.

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