It has been proven time and again that great leaders are essential to successful companies. Without good leadership, a company will almost certainly fail to reach its full potential. Since it is unusual to find strong leadership and management skills in people who have not learned the fundamentals of these skills, many companies find it beneficial to create training programs to groom future leaders. Such a program also demonstrates your company's commitment to developing future leaders in-house, which can improve retention among your most valuable employees. Even the smallest company can put an effective program in place, including some or all of the following components.
- Tuition Assistance/Reimbursement.
At the most basic level, a company can help pay for an undergraduate or graduate degree in a field that relates directly to an employee's responsibilities. A company may also choose to pay the fees for study programs and licenses or certifications that align with the employee's current and planned future responsibilities.
- Training Upon Promotion.
Managers often promote employees for excellent performance. This does not mean, however, that employees will know how to perform all of the tasks required in their new positions. This is especially true if managers promote them into management positions. To ensure these employees have good leadership skills, some training upon promotion will be valuable both to them and the company.
- Formal Mentorship Program.
Mentors are business professionals who outrank junior employees in the management hierarchy and are further along a similar career path. People often meet mentors informally, at a networking event or in the course of a career. A formal mentorship program, however, intentionally pairs junior employees with mentors, either one-on-one or in groups. Whatever the case, mentors help employees navigate the paths to advancement within their companies or fields.
- Business Library.
Subscriptions to multiple copies of business newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal or magazines such as Harvard Business Review can keep your employees up to date with industry developments and ensure that everyone in the organization uses best practices. You can require that people read a specific number of articles for an invitation to a Lunch Bunch, where the articles will be basis for discussion.
- Video Library.
This can be a virtual library where employees can watch a variety of Ted Talks or other presentations that relate to strong leadership. You can also create simple training videos to help employees learn the basics of management and leadership in a visual format. Upon completion, employees can be eligible for a Lunch Bunch or other discussion group.
- Lunch Bunch.
These are informal group lunches, often in a boardroom or large office, where employees get a free lunch while they discuss articles, books or other materials. Organizers can announce specific materials prior to the lunch. A member of management, or a mentor, can then facilitate the discussion. The object of these lunches is to have an open and thoughtful discussion of the principles covered by the requisite materials.
- Leadership Academy.
The Leadership Academy consolidates training materials. You can create a website or a Facebook group with links to all of the relevant materials. As an incentive to learn the fundamentals of leadership, you can base invitations to a Lunch Bunch with senior management or mentors on completion of the readings and performance of other tasks. As employees advance through the Leadership Academy, they can earn certificates or tangible rewards. You can also stress the link between achievements in the Leadership Academy and future promotions, so that employees are clear that the Leadership Academy benefits both them and the company.
Employees will watch to see if your leadership program has teeth -- if it exists in name only, or if it is a real initiative with management's backing. The best way to ensure that the Leadership Academy fosters good leadership is inspire management's genuine interest. If they are reading the articles, watching the Ted Talks and reading the books, too, employees will quickly see that this is a vital part of the strategy for the company's growth.
Another essential step in the leadership training process is to identify the people you want to keep and to encourage them to participate. The final step is to actively retain and promote those who have participated. Nothing will make it clearer to your employees that you mean it when you say you are grooming future leaders in-house than seeing those they work with being promoted.
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