As companies turn towards hybrid workplaces, culture is rising to become a top priority. The pandemic revealed many things within the workplace that might have been quietly brewing for decades (or not so quietly). The shift to “people-first” culture has put considerable stress on some companies that had traditionally been “work-first” or “revenue-first.” Now the race is on to transform processes and values to balance employee satisfaction and business priorities. Many are being forced to rethink culture—whether they want to or not. Returning to a pre-pandemic mindset is not an option in this new age of employee-centered workflows.
Culture transformation has traditionally been a hard road to cross, with nearly 70% failing in the attempt. Leaders need to be at the vanguard of this change. They will be called upon to lead the transformation and champion a new approach that will significantly impact company performance. We’re currently in the midst of an incredible opportunity to make significant changes to our company culture, the lives of our workforce, and to our businesses. However, our top leaders are going to require specific leadership development programs to train them in the new skills required to achieve this massive transformation.
Skill Requirements for Transformational Leaders
A hybrid workplace culture will require new workflows and procedures. Many traditional leadership requirements will need to be updated to accommodate the shift to hybridity. There can be a great deal of confusion across the organization when trying to balance teamwork and tasks between work done remotely and work that requires face-to-face interaction. Leaders will need to be fluent in technologies that can enable collaboration and task management. As well, they will need to update their leadership and communication style to coordinate consistent messaging, feedback, and support across multiple modalities.
The hybrid leader will be tasked with helping all stakeholders to remain passionate and productive despite the potential challenges of a spread-out workforce. For example, maintaining one-on-ones is easy enough through video conferencing platforms. However, being able to replicate informal one-on-ones may not be as easy to achieve. When delivering tough news or having difficult conversations, there are a number of key differences between sitting in a room with a person and talking with them through a camera. Leaders will need to evolve their existing communication skills to be able to “read the room,” even when they’re not in the same physical space.
Leadership development programs need to focus on balancing training in the practical and technical skills required for hybrid leadership, but they also need to promote new soft skills that are essential for people management.
How Leaders Can Influence Their Organization
When change occurs, not everyone may be as eager to embrace transformation. Your teams will have many different responses to a digital shift towards the hybrid workplace. It’s a precarious time to say the least. This is why it’s essential to have strong leadership to help the organization embrace the change. Learning programs can help promote the business case for why a hybrid environment is necessary, but there’s also the human element to consider. Leaders need to buy-in early to change management processes to help champion the change within their organization.
This means that corporate training should accomplish a few tasks: help leaders convey the importance of change, while also providing them with the skills to build momentum, positive energy, and passion towards making the change a success. This requires new skills, of course. Listening, communication, collaboration, and empathy are chief among them. Leaders need to reach out across the organization to negotiate the rationale and configuration of the business structure and processes moving forward. They need to collaborate with business units to determine new targets, goals, and aspirations. Leadership development is key to prepare leaders for their new role in a hybrid organization.
Changes at the top need to filter down through the organization and impact the behavior of people managers and team leaders. In this way, transformation becomes less an issue of “forcing people” to adapt, but rather, a common goal that can be achieved through the contribution of each and every employee.
- “Reimagining culture puts new demands on leaders, but being stretched in new ways can be inspiring. Imagine a leader orchestrating—based on tasks, on interactions, on purpose—how hybrid could work.” — Brooke Weddle, McKinsey & Company
Leadership Development and Career Planning
When you’re looking to promote internally, ensure that future leaders have the skills required to do the job effectively. To be honest, some people aren’t ready to become leaders. For example, they may be a skilled sales associate with heavy numbers to prove their acumen, but they don’t have the skills to manage and influence a team to deliver similar results. This is why corporate training needs to focus on nurturing and developing high-potential candidates towards career progression and promotion. Not only is L&D tasked with uncovering the gems in the rough, but they also need to move those candidates efficiently through the career development process.
Not all employees are well suited for leadership positions, but on the other hand, they may thrive if given the opportunity and training. When building leadership development programs, consider developing off-shoot programs that can be extended to a wider audience to capture high-potential candidates. This will help you increase the scope of your learning program (which is always a good thing in terms of ROI), and it will help you to identify candidates that you can flag for possible career advancement.
In conclusion, ask yourself if your current leadership development training energizes your team? Do they leave feeling ready to take on new challenges? Great learning programs begin by understanding the needs of your audience and the needs of your business moving forward. Talk to us to learn more about how we can work together to shape a custom leadership development program at your organization to build new skills and support cultural change.