How effective is your company’s leadership development program? If you’d say it could probably be a lot better, you’re not alone. Despite significant investments — leadership development and training programs are now a $14 billion industry — many organizations and experts have doubts that most of their internal efforts to prepare future company leaders are paying off.
That doesn't mean it’s not worth figuring out, of course: The future health of your company depends on having a robust leadership pipeline to fill key roles as people move on and retire. Sure, you can bring in external candidates to fill leadership gaps, but this can be more expensive and even more disruptive than systematically nurturing and growing leadership candidates from within.
The strength of your existing workforce is also directly impacted by the quality of your leadership programs: “Leaders” doesn’t just mean “managers,” and there are plenty of important ways individual contributors can exhibit leadership and would benefit from leadership training (which, in the end, benefits you, too).
There’s also the connection between leadership development and employee engagement and retention. The modern worker is driven to constantly learn and grow, and becomes disengaged when development stalls — which leads to turnover. In a Deloitte report, 42% of millennials surveyed said they “are likely to leave because they are not learning fast enough.”
What to do? There are a number of possible remedies depending on how mature your program is. Assuming you’ve got the fundamentals down, it’s likely time for you to leverage AI. 2018 just happens to be a good time to do so.
Here are three ways smart software helps:
1. AI Uncovers Potential Leaders You May Have Otherwise Overlooked
It’s subconscious, but it’s human nature: People are likely to choose someone similar to themselves when appointing their successor. Managers frequently rely on likeability and like-mindedness (see: gut feel and “the beer test”) in selecting potential future leaders, and largely ignoring data. If that bias is left unchecked, the same model of employee is promoted over and over again.
That’s not to say manager feedback shouldn’t be a key component of who’s chosen for leadership training; it absolutely should. Feedback from peers should be a factor, too. But objective data — from capability assessments, performance management trackers, and so on — should play a big role as well. And the power of AI is crunching those data, making sense of them, and revealing truths we wouldn’t otherwise see. In this case, AI would identify employees who have or desire to have the characteristics that predictive success metrics tell us make great leaders in your organization. Powerful stuff.
2. AI Determines Which Resources Work Best for Specific Skill Gaps
You’re probably familiar with the concept of machine learning, specifically how AI-enabled software “learns” and becomes “smarter” over time. When applied to your leadership development program, AI continuously processes all of the information generated by your employees’ interactions and experiences with each of your learning resources, revealing which assets are most effective for which skill gaps, and getting more and more “confident” in its predictions as it goes.
With these insights, you can cut expensive courses or resources that aren’t producing results, and beef up the stuff that’s really working.
3. AI Automatically Matches the Right Assets to the Right People
So now you’ve refined your leadership library and offerings and you know what works for which learning goals. But how do you extrapolate that intel to match each of your potential future leaders — all with unique learning and development needs — to the appropriate materials and programs? You don’t; AI does. It uses those same data gathered via capability assessments and performance feedback to serve up the optimal mix of assets proven to most effectively bring the desired competencies up to par. It’s optimization on top of optimization!
If you’re investing in leadership development programs for your company, good on you. If you’re not getting a great return on that investment, let AI help.