Companies warned against ‘fad-driven’ leadership programmes

Companies spend roughly US$14 billion a year on leadership development programmes but one expert says they should be focusing on other areas instead

Companies warned against ‘fad-driven’ leadership programmes

According to a recent survey by Deloitte, 89% of executives said that “strengthening the leadership pipeline” should be given priority. And while leadership expert Josh Bersin agreed, he also said that companies should not buy into ‘fad-driven’ development programmes.

He said that organisations spend roughly “US$14 billion a year on courses, books, videos, coaches, tests, and executive education programmes”.

“But there’s little evidence that much of this works … numerous other experts have pointed out that the development market is filled with fads — slick behavioural models and fun, engaging tools — that don’t really move the needle,” he wrote in Harvard Business Review.

Rather than focusing their attention on these programmes, Bersin said there are five key areas companies should be focusing on instead:

1)    Focus on culture
2)    Cultivate a network-based management
3)    Learning by exposure
4)    Knowledge sharing
5)    Have a business-driven approach to HR

The values within a company should be reinforced in every division and department, “and whenever someone takes on a leadership role,” he said.

He advised companies to encourage employees to build networks within the company and move from role to role. This builds a future leader’s understanding of the overall business and also gives them a chance to interact with other experts in the company, thus learning from exposure.

Companies with a successful leadership pipeline exhibit traits of a ‘learning culture’, one where the environment is inclusive and open where employees are encouraged to speak up, he added.

Lastly, Bersin said companies should look to HR as a business partner.

“One major pharmaceutical provider embeds senior HR leaders in each unit to make sure leadership discussions, programs, and ongoing assignments are relevant to the business — yet also coordinated with other efforts throughout the company,” he cited.

“And these HR partners are rotated into and out of the business units, so they all have line leadership experience.”


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