Thrown into the deep end: On-the-job leadership training

On the job leadership training

What is it about Proctor & Gamble’s ability to be continually recognised for its leadership development? It is a veritable factory of leaders, winning global awards year in, year out.

Likewise, what is the secret to IBM’s success in creating world-class leaders? And how is Deloitte able to engage and develop the millennial generation into its leadership pipeline, which is the hallmark strategy of its leadership development program?

Let’s take a look at the tried-and-tested practices that can be cherry-picked to help advance your staff’s training and leadership qualities in 2015 and beyond.

Developing millennial talent

Leadership starts early, and leadership development is no longer just about nurturing the senior managers or executive team. In an increasingly changing world, companies are building leadership from the ground up. The 2013-14 Chally Group Global Leadership Research project showed that 25 per cent of organisations believe it is critical to focus on the development of millennial (Gen Y) employees.

Few companies demonstrate this in a more concerted way than Deloitte, with millennials making up more than 50 per cent of the firm’s client-facing workforce. Deloitte invests in a year-long onboarding program – which saw some 17,000 participants globally in 2012.

The program is designed to optimise the learning styles and develop rapid progression of the next generation. One initiative that Deloitte implemented in 2009, which is easily replicable for any sized business, is to develop Gen Y (or millennial) councils, which act as a sounding board to the company’s senior team. This might be one new practice you could recommend within your own company.

Mentoring and coaching

One-on-one development remains a timeless practice in leadership development and is an exercise that retains the number one position as identified in the Global Leadership Research project. At Proctor & Gamble, you will still find A.G. Lafley mentoring leaders from various levels within the business.

Leading companies are also ensuring their staff have exposure and access to senior executives as part of their on-the-job experience and training. Here’s a great case study of how GE uses ‘speed coaching’ with its executive team.

Problem-solving in the real world

Real-world problem-solving (or action learning) – often now executed in state-of-the-art virtual environments – is a highly recognised strategy at IBM. As part of its well-known Corporate Service Corps program, IBM sends rising stars overseas for month-long community-driven economic development projects in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America where they work at the intersection of business, technology and society. P&G also take groups of promising leaders off-site to places such as the US Military Academy at West Point for leadership training.

This creates a high-impact way of learning, with such styles growing in popularity to help develop managers in complex areas like strategic thinking and decision-making. If overseas community-based assignments are not practical for your company, perhaps look at ways to engage locally in Australia.

Strategy and philosophy

One common denominator for leaders in this field is a commitment to invest in leadership strategy, which is wrapped by a strong development plan and overarching philosophy. It might sound obvious but companies that are being continually recognised for their staff training programs have spent years honing and tailoring their strategy.

A case in point is Cisco. Its model develops its leaders through the lens of four quadrants: innovators, executers, efficiency builders and turnaround specialists, which could be a way to group your on-the-job training sessions. P&G has a series of seven short videos on its leadership development strategy available online, which provides insight into its ‘learning on the job’ process.

Leading companies also invest significantly more on such programs, which may well assist other companies to argue for increased budgets. The Global Leadership Research project found that companies that rank highly invest 30-40 per cent more money in leadership than their peers, with the results showing these companies also generate the greatest market value over time.

The world’s leading firms show that the tried-and-tested, often age-old tactics of staff and leadership training continue to yield outstanding results. Perhaps 2015 is the time for your company to focus more on one of the above areas to develop and nurture your leadership talent.

For more information on getting started with mentoring or workplace coaching tips, learn 5 tips for becoming an inspirational mentor.

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