By Chris Westfall
Powerful and personalized leadership training is becoming the new currency for attracting and retaining employees. A culture of career growth now matters more than money: Glassdoor says that 65% of Millennials consider culture over salary, and The Ladders echoes this trend: 61% of employees prioritize career growth over pay.
In the current economy, finding the right people is job #1. Keeping them requires inventive learning and development solutions (in L&D, “development” is really short for “career development”). Creating a total experience package, from on-boarding to the C-suite, is the new focus for savvy HR departments.
Employees are demanding a culture that fosters growth – and top employers are delivering bespoke development experiences as the differentiator that matters more than the paycheck.
While your software firm may not compete for customers with the engineering company across town, you are both competing for the same high-tech talent. Your leadership training, culture and compassion are under consideration in a tight job market. And the need to differentiate, based on leadership growth, is creating a transformation across multiple industries.
Employees are hungry for the leadership coaching that can advance careers, influence cultures and impact customers. Experiential learning is the only way to really get that done. Because information on leadership is everywhere – but studying leadership isn’t the same as delivering it. WDHB has run offsite leadership events for 30 years, primarily in Europe, and they’ve recently been expanding in the U.S. They have pioneered “Learning Expeditions” – tailored and curated events that bring together a diverse group of leaders, offering experiential learning opportunities to global organizations.
One Size That Doesn’t Fit
“Taking an online e-course called ‘Leadership Jazz,’ isn’t necessarily going to get you into the C-suite. Or keep you there,” says Alana Vaughn-Phillips, an executive with WDHB in Denver. Not that online training is bad – she’s making a careful distinction between leadership experience and skills-based training. Annemie Ress, a former Global HR Director at Skype and founder of Purple Beach, agrees. “New generations aren’t into what is proposed in terms of e-learning, by most learning management systems (LMS).”
“We deliver programs in a shared way,” Alana explains, “where leaders see that their company cares about career growth firsthand.” By bringing diverse employees together in unique, bespoke environments, the company facilitates a new experience around leadership. A big part of the learning, according to Alana, is peer to peer collaboration. At WDHB, camaraderie and connection is central to the overall experience.
Employees With Options
But what about learning and development expense, when employees take that experience and go elsewhere? According to Gallup, 72% of Millennials report greater engagement when clear performance goals are established. Those goals need to include what the organization is doing, as well as what the employee is doing, regarding advancement. A career path has to be a two-way street.
“When you create a unique shared experience, that’s what drives loyalty,” according to Vaughn-Phillips, “even among employees who leave. Because, when you create powerful and unique leadership development experiences, often those employees come back. Your chances are higher [for retention] when you deliver programs that inspire evangelists within your organization. These employees build your brand and your reputation – regardless of where their career might take them.
“Industry leaders like Google and Heinz offer exceptional experiences – from onsite massages to wellness training to free food. But you don’t have to be a famous-name company in order to attract the best and brightest. Investing in innovative programs for experiential learning is easier than you might think – and facilitating these retreats can be the first step to elevate your team members.
Are You Experienced?
Leadership is something that must be experienced in order to be delivered – that’s why most online leadership training programs don’t work. The key is to create a tailored program for your employees – one that’s not designed around an online curriculum, but one that focuses on the individual team members.
Top companies realize that leadership training isn’t about the guru at the front of the room. If you want to know if your leadership development program is working, don’t look at the sage on the stage. Look at what the participants are experiencing. And measure your progress.
Survey the teams that work for these leaders. Track participant’s promotions and responsibilities. Show the organization that there is a path that works for people who perform. Let current and prospective employees know that you have a plan for their growth. Because leadership development is the new paycheck. Make sure you’re ready to trade in that currency.
Chris writes about the changing nature of the leadership conversation, and how communication creates the connections that matter. Recognized as the U.S. National Elevator Pitch champion, he’s an international coach to businesses and entrepreneurs around the globe. He’s helped raise over $100 Million in capital, launching dozens of businesses and coaching my clients onto Shark Tank, Dragons Den and Shark Tank – Australia. As a keynote speaker, his clients include Fortune 500 giants, international non-profits, technology, real estate, financial institutions and hundreds of high-growth businesses worldwide. The publisher of seven books, his latest is called Leadership Language (Wiley) – the follow-up to the international best-seller, The NEW Elevator Pitch.
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