How can leadership development solutions help leaders thrive in uncertain times?

Posted by Bill Latshaw, Matthew Shannon on April 30, 2020.

During times of crisis, long-term planning for future leadership development may seem like a distant thought; however, developing a leadership strategy is still crucial, even while prioritizing immediate needs for business survival. As organizations move through the three stages of crisis management1 —respond, recover, thrive—some will seek out HR technology solutions to help embed and distribute leadership development opportunities into their workers’ milieus. These organizations will find that a wide distribution of leadership growth and continuous learning are twice as effective at anticipating future change and responding to it efficiently.2

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Urgent times call for fast-track leader development

As in any crisis, tough times call for leaders who can pivot quickly to provide direction and sound decision-making for the wellbeing of their workforce and organizations. However, these leaders are often in a position to act in ways that are unfamiliar and usually untested. Therefore, it is vital to tap into the experience of seasoned leaders who can stand ready to address the organization’s immediate circumstances. Yet, only 30 percent of executives feel they are effectively developing leaders to meet evolving challenges.3

Many of these organizations don’t have the time for traditional formats of leadership training programs. HR technology may help expedite leadership development with programs to make them more adept at teaching relevant skills in the everyday workflow.4

Four areas where technology can enable leadership development

Technology is a tool people can use to align their organizational strategy in a way that can solve leadership development challenges. With that perspective in mind, we have initiated research that is looking at the ways in which HR technology solutions may support leadership development. We will examine four areas where we have identified gaps in leadership training and where solution offerings can support leadership development to create a strong leadership network across an organization.

Democratized leadership development

As organizational structure becomes increasingly flatter and teams become more agile in their workflows to adapt to uncertainty, leadership has become more distributed. In fact, our research indicates that high-performing organizations are 2.5 times more likely than low-performing organizations to see leadership at all levels take ownership for the workforce experience.5

Leadership development is quickly adapting to support democratized changes in leadership. Although leader potential exists across an organization, high-potential development programs apply to only a small portion of the workforce that tends to overlook some leaders who would benefit from additional training.

Leadership solutions present new leadership talent with opportunities to participate in and receive developmental support through team-building or mentorships. Thus, technology brings together groups of people throughout the organization who would have otherwise not interacted by more traditional leadership development practices. 

Socialized leadership development

Along with a more democratized offering of leadership development across the organization, leadership solutions may also help to foster a sense of community across the organizational network. From sharing recognition of exemplary leadership to encouraging confidence with a coach or mentor, leadership solutions can provide the resources needed to forge meaningful and insightful relationships. In certain instances, executive leaders may need a peer who matches their role and experience outside of the organization. Leadership solutions can offer opportunities to match executives with external certified coaches.

Our research on performance management recognizes that high-performing organizations are 16 times more likely than low-performing organizations to use peer development for promoting connectedness of workers across the organization.6 Social relationships can allow leaders to reflect on their performance and assess the strength of individual and team needs for what should take place next.

Contextualized leadership development

While connected networks of leaders can support one another through socialized development, focused reminders can serve as targeted recommendations that leaders need to make split-second decisions. Many HR technologies now provide nudges, or behavioral suggestions, as microlearning situations for supporting development—and the same concept can be applied to leadership development.

Accelerating leadership development is essential for organizations to form a pool of response-ready leaders. This is when microlearning opportunities—delivered through pop-ups, emails, or other system notifications—can provide the spot guidance or reminders for leaders to take time to focus on their team’s experience, on being more inclusive, and on being understanding of different worker situations and challenges.

Our research sees high-performing organizations structure these performance observations and reminders in real time7, incorporating them into daily workflow activities, such as at the start of the day or before team meetings.

Analyzed leadership development

Assessment and tracking of development progress can offer executives and HR teams better insight into the experience and needs of the workforce. People analytics provide organizations with targeted metrics that can aid in identifying workforce development needs and which leaders are most likely to respond readily in a crisis.

Our research shows that high-performing organizations are nearly 3 times more likely than low-performing organizations to build talent capacity for future needs.8 Leadership solutions may offer this information and, potentially, the steps for how to address and fill learning gaps for the next generation of leaders.

Tell us about your leadership solution

HR technology can offer solutions to help organizations democratize, socialize, contextualize, and analyze leadership development to better equip their leaders. To better understand how technology can support virtual leadership development, organizations will need a sense of where to find the content, tools, and resources available to their entire workforce. Our upcoming research will further explore the capabilities available across solution providers in the HR technology market for leadership development.

We invite you to participate in our upcoming research. As providers, if your HR technology solution supports the assessment, development, and growth of leaders and managers, then take a moment to tell us about your solution in our Leadership Development Solutions Survey.

Bill Latshaw is a research manager, leadership, at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Matthew Shannon is a senior research analyst, Solution Provider Market, at Deloitte Consulting LLP.

1The Heart of Resilient Leadership: Responding to COVID-19, Deloitte Insights, 2020.
2High-Impact Leadership: The Leadership Maturity Model, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Andrea Derler, PhD, 2016.
32019 Global Human Capital Trends: Leading the social enterprise—Reinvent with a human focus, Deloitte Insights, 2019.
4Bring Your Own Problems: Leader Development Reimagine from Zen Garden to Arena, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Wayne Robinson, Neil Alger, Kyle Sandell, and Natalie Elghossain, 2020.
5Five Top Findings for Elevating Workforce Experience, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Christina Rasieleski and Matthew Deruntz, 2019.
6Four Leading Practices of High-Performing Leaders, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Bill Latshaw, Matthew Deruntz, Nehal Nangia, Kathi Enderes, PhD, 2020.
7High-Impact Performance Management research, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2019.
8 High-Impact Workforce Experience research, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2019.

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