Why Leadership Training Will No Longer Work After COVID

We are experiencing the most significant shift in leadership training and professional development in decades.

If not, ever.

And it is disrupting our entire approach to new manager training and leadership development. 

The Association for Talent Development calls this shift ‘Revolution 4.0.’

In reality, we are experiencing generational change and technology breakthroughs.  


The Age of Millennial Management

We all know that millennials are upon us. As baby boomers retire rapidly and millennials (age 25 to 35) come rushing in, they’ll form 50% of the workforce in just two years and 75% by 2025.

So stop asking, “How do we manage those millennials,” because millennials are now becoming managers themselves. 


What Millennial Managers Think Of Current Training?

Soon, we will have more younger managers with fewer mentors above them.

A recent survey of over 200 first-time managers–ranging in age from 27 to 32 and working in either mid-size or large enterprise companies asked for open-ended comments, which included:

      • “My generation really doesn’t want to learn from PowerPoints.”
      • “We took some online training about harassment, diversity and what kind of questions to ask if we’re interviewing someone. But nothing about motivating people or how to be a strong team.”
      • “It’s crazy. I can watch any episode of Friends in three clicks on my phone. But it’s like dozens of clicks, logins and popup windows to start an e-learning course.”
      • “We have tuition reimbursement, a corporate university and supposedly over a thousand courses on the network. But there just isn’t any time. Zero time.”
      • “I like learning about stuff, but the work training isn’t very good. I just listen to podcasts, watch TED talks and sometimes read.” 

 What New Managers Want From Their Training?

So, if our new generation of managers isn’t in love with our current solutions, from classroom training to online learning catalogues, what do they want?

      1. Self-awareness is the foundation of great leadership, and you are likely already investing a lot in this area. From personality assessments, communication styles, and strength profiles, we spend a lot to discover what makes each manager tick. But are you using that data to personalize your training programs? When training on delegation do you explain to highly conscientious managers that they need to be careful not to micromanage? Does your training explain to managers low in conscientiousness that they need to delegate, not just dump
      2. Coaching. One of the big ironies in our industry is that the people who get executive coaches are the ones who already have the most experience. Who (or what) coaches your front-line managers? Do they have a new developmental goal every quarter? Do they have someone to motivate them, and to hold them accountable?
      3. On Demand. Nobody wants to travel to a remote seminar. Nobody has the time to be away from their desk for several days. Modern learners have been informally trained to look things up on Google or YouTube. How much of your leadership development curriculum is available at any time? How many minutes does it take to go from the desire to learn something, and the learning intervention itself?
      4. Ongoing (long-term).Too often training is delivered as a “one and done” event. Numerous studies have shown that we quickly forget much of what we learn in our day(s) long training programs, and very little ever gets applied. Rather than viewing management training as a “boot camp” style event, how can training become continuous?
      5. Mobile. The call it the consumerization of enterprise software. Our modern workers expect digital solutions at work to be as easy to use (and perhaps as engaging) as the apps on their phone. Most of us now have access to 12,000 movies and TV shows (Netflix), 20 million songs (Spotify) and 4 million ebooks (Kindle)–all in the palms of our hands. How many leadership development programs are on your new managers’ smartphones? How many clicks does it take to access them?


There Will Be Winners And Losers

We know from Gallup research that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is tied to the manager. Who your boss is counts greatly: Discretionary effort, performance, service, safety, employee grievances, and more. And when it comes to talent retention, that old saying, “You join a company but leave a boss,” is largely accurate. 

Those who fail to take action now—who fail to move quickly to adopt new training strategies—will be overtaken by those who recognize that these mega-shifts are both a threat and an opportunity. 

Innovative leadership development professionals who adapt quickly will turn their organizations into millennial talent magnets. Front-line leaders will unleash the discretionary effort of their teams, and retention will be high.

While the impact of these shifts may be arguable, nobody can risk sitting on the sidelines. At the very least, ask yourself, “How can I deliver a better learning experience to our managers?”