Learning & Development

The Top Three Challenges Impacting Leadership Development Programs

3 Challenges in Leadership Development Programs

The investment in leadership development activities is an important aspect of sustaining an optimized level of employee performance and organizational success. From an organization’s standpoint, instilling leadership skills in high-potential employees ensures candidates are ready when senior positions become vacant. From an employee’s standpoint, leadership development programs demonstrate that the organization cares about employee development and career progression.

While the Learning and Development industry is huge, with over $20 billion spent in leadership development programs in 2017, most programs and training activities fail to effectively nurture leadership qualities in participants. With so many resources, why are leadership development programs failing? Let’s explore three challenges that often prevent L&D executives from planning and running a successful program.

  1. Measuring Return on Investment

Like every department inside an organization, L&D executives are competing for budget dollars to finance their training programs. Unlike more clear-cut investments, such as increasing marketing spend or business development budgets, L&D results “tend to be much more descriptive and subjective, rather than numerical and objective.” – Brian Keady, General Assembly

Measuring the effectiveness of a leadership development program goes beyond asking participants to circle a smiley or frowny face at the end of the program. Return on investment for L&D activities are almost always long-term, meaning that you must keep an eye on program participants’ career development one or two years down the road.

To dive a little deeper into how hard it can be to determine the return on investment of a leadership development program and to discover four metrics that can be used to help you demonstrate the impact of leadership development activities, read our recent blog post, “How to Measure ROI for your Leadership Development Program.”

  1. Low Participant Engagement

According to Gallup, over 50% of the American workforce is not engaged at work. How can we expect employees to engage and actively participate in leadership development programs if more than half of them are not engaged with their everyday responsibilities?

The way people learn has changed over time. Learners now prefer hands-on, experiential activities that cater to their shortened attention spans. Leadership development programs must adapt to include experiential learning activities, such as business simulations, to drive engagement and meaningful skill development.

As Brent Gleeson, founder of the leadership and change management consulting firm TakingPoint Leadership, states, “The skills needed for leadership have also changed and more complex and adaptive thinking abilities are needed. But the methods being used to develop leaders have not changed much. The majority of managers are developed from on-the-job experiences, training, and coaching or mentoring; while these are all still important, leaders are no longer developing fast enough or in the right ways to match the new environment.”

So how can you design a leadership development program that is experiential and engaging? Read our recent blog post, “Designing a Leadership Development Program That’s Experiential,” to discover recommendations from Capsim’s Director of Training and Development, Joe LiVigni, on how you can ensure participant engagement and development through experiential learning programs.

  1. Meeting Learning Outcomes

Changing business demands and more complex problems highlight the need for a different set of leadership skills. However, L&D programs often rely on old-school methods that are content-focused and ignore the most important aspects of any leadership development program: employee needs and organizational goals.

Ultimately, the success of any training program in a corporate setting depends on the alignment between training goals and business objectives.

As John Laskaris of TalentLMS states, “A training program that results in wiser, happier, more loyal employees might be considered successful, right? But what if those employees successfully learned a bunch of skills that contribute nothing toward their productivity or the organization’s strategic goals? What if they’re wiser and happier, but not any better equipped to move the organization closer to its vision?”

So how can you ensure your L&D initiatives are addressing employee developmental needs and your organization’s business objectives? One method is to flip Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model when designing your program. To learn more about how you can use this model to ensure that you meet organizational and training goals with your learning and development initiatives, click here or contact us by filling out the form below to continue the conversation with Joe LiVigni, Capsim’s Director of Training and Development.

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