Meet Sarah, a learning & development professional working for a major global bank. She has experienced, first-hand, the changes that have impacted the financial industry in the last 10 years. She feels overwhelmed when she thinks about the radical transformation the marketplace has recently experienced. Regulations, new nontraditional entrants to the market, and digital transformation are impacting the business in different ways, forcing the bank to adapt and streamline organizational structures.
Sarah realizes these changes have created new rules not only for the business, but also for her as an L&D professional. The new business strategy put in place by the leadership team requires a new set of leadership skills and a different culture in the organization.
A Need for Alignment
Sarah understands that she needs to rethink her approach to training. Leadership is no longer just for individual leaders at the top; therefore, training cannot continue to focus solely on them. There is a need for broader and quicker organizational alignment, and she knows that traditional leadership development fails to support this kind of agile workplace.
But how to change the old paradigms? How to get buy-in for the scope of transformation that is required? How does she find ways to cascade leadership throughout the organization? How does she ensure organizational alignment around key leadership messages without tripling the L&D budget?
Can you empathize with Sarah’s reality? If you are like the clients we interact with regularly, then the answer is probably yes. In today’s business environment, every employee needs to execute the strategy, placing a priority on scaling leadership development. Such scaling is not a program, but rather a sweeping initiative that requires a whole-systems view. It requires a significant commitment across the organization. Here are 3 steps to help you succeed:
1. Start with Strategy
Organizations start with the business strategy and then identify the related strategic drivers (choices about how to be positioned to take advantage of strengths). From there, focus is put on leadership implications of the strategy. If your strategy involves geographic expansion, your leaders would need to have learning agility, resilience, and the ability to lead dispersed and virtual teams.
Too often, leadership development scaling initiatives are rolled out without aligning with the business strategy. Avoid this mistake. As you think about scaling leadership development, ask what business opportunities and challenges demand a leadership solution.
2. Create the Processes to Support Scaling
Once the strategy is in place, focus on a learning architecture that will better support scaling. It’s important to have clarity about the varying needs and investment that will be required at different levels. The good news is that today, there are many different forms of content available for organizational learning: licensed leadership content and materials from industry experts, outsourced delivery, books, and digital content. The bad news is that it usually isn’t well organized, aligned, and packaged. Consider the following:
- Balance between centralized versus regional training.
- Satisfy the individual leader and create collective alignment.
- Leverage traditional and modern methodologies.
- Provide fast, bite-size solutions while allowing sufficient time to slow down and reflect.
It’s vital to create a common leadership language around the critical skills for success linked to your strategy, regardless of the delivery model. Anchor the initiative in agreed-upon learning objectives at every level.
3. Drive Scaling through Internal Talent
Consider mixing outsourcing with insourcing. Seek the support of an external partner to get you started, and then engage your internal team. Leverage your partner for certain groups (such as senior executives where deeper, more complex development is required), and then use your internal resources to scale down the development.
For one of our clients, we started working with the organization at the top. We created customized learning journeys for the senior team and then designed specific solutions for the levels below, emphasizing critical leadership skills for the rest of the organization. We then trained the internal facilitators in the organization, and they led the training internally, disseminating key leadership skills at their pace, in their place, led by a familiar face.
Identify your internal facilitation talent outside of your regular internal trainers in HR. Also, think about involving business leaders who can cascade down the key leadership messages to their teams. This helps organizations to scale while offering invaluable insights for team members.