Business changes rapidly thanks in a large part to ever-developing technology. So how can we balance our ability to stay on top of, if not ahead of, technological change? How can we build our workforce to be flexible and open to progress so that they don’t get left behind… and so we don’t either?
By taking one concept very seriously: leadership development within our workplace. Today leadership development means more than grooming an employee for higher responsibility. An effective company-wide leadership development program can play an influential role in readying your team for what’s coming while creating a genuine learning organization so that no one falls behind.
And ultimately, a structured leadership development program guarantees that your company’s culture will be brought to life everyday rather than simply be a mission or vision statement hanging on a wall.
Leadership development requires a commitment from senior management and an understanding of the integral role it can play in the organization’s long-term success. Sending people to various workshops is okay but that can be haphazard and hit-or-miss. Besides, in addition to educating your workforce, leadership development really represents your opportunity to convey the values on which your organization is based. That can’t be accomplished with outside training.
And let’s say your organization is facing a major change (not uncommon in today’s world). Maybe you’re merging or buying or otherwise taking over another company. Sometimes you’ll hear leaders of merged organizations say their two corporate cultures are similar… don’t believe it. Yes there can be similarities but when you have two sets of employees, they each bring their own personality and culture. Therefore, to succeed as a merged organization, a new culture will need to be developed and brought to life pro-actively.
That’s when leadership development becomes integral. Training programs need to be designed to communicate the merged culture, to get feedback from the workforce, and to convey what the new priorities and objectives are. This approach is as valuable as a traditional technical training program. Staff can be strengthening their “how to” skills while learning the “why” as well:
- Why are we doing this?
- Why aren’t we doing that anymore?
- What is our goal as a new company?
- What is valued, important, and why?
Some years ago, a staid but successful hospital organization was facing change. Out-patient services were becoming as important as traditional in-patient care. After decades, each member hospital could no longer operate individually (or “silo’ed”). Revenue would ultimately come from keeping people out of these hospitals rather than from the number of in-patient days a person stayed.
A system-wide leadership development program was launched with every manager (over 300 people) required to participate. Training sessions included groups of 25-30 managers, mixed together for the first time from different hospitals and out-patient centers; administration, nursing and even paramedics were included.
The result was a strikingly new culture for the entire health system rather than four individual hospitals. Managers took greater initiative because they instinctively felt the support of their new colleagues to make ideas work. Employees talked about the hospital system rather than the particular one where they worked. And an overarching willingness to embrace change could be seen and felt increasingly as each training class “graduated.”
Although this leadership development program occurred almost 20 years ago, employees still speak glowingly about the experience. And by the way, so does senior management who often cited this program as playing a major role in their health care organization’s success and growth into the 21st century.
That’s how culture can spread and become real. And with technological developments, organizational leaders might think this could be just as effective with an on-line approach. Don’t be tempted. Skills can be taught on-line but convincingly communicating a culture requires human interaction. It’s a key but intangible aspect of any organization’s success, especially one that’s facing change.
Wait a minute… that’s all of us these days, isn’t it?