Global Leadership Blog

Are Your L&D Programs Really Making a Difference?

There is a movement among US organizations today. The shift is away from traditional performance reviews and toward learning and development. In fact, last year, American companies spent $156,200,000,000 on learning programs, a staggering sum. (A 135 countries have GDPs below that amount.) These programs emphasize coaching skills and giving effective feedback so that employees can understand and pursue their own personal development, and therefore performance improvement.

Specifically, I have noticed a focus of these programs in three key areas:

Diversity. Diversity programs are being revamped and re-energized with an emphasis, particularly in Silicon Valley, on women, culture, race, and what is known as “unconscious bias.” According to a recent article on unconscious bias by COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg, “Studies show that job applicants with ‘Black sounding names’ are less likely to get callbacks than those with ‘White sounding names’ – and applicants called Jennifer are likely to be offered a lower salary than applicants called John.” This is clearly a problem. Sandberg’s company has developed a training course that helps people recognize how bias can affect them, and gives them tools to interrupt and correct for bias when they see it in the workplace.

From my own experience, I have been asked a lot to work on networking and advancement strategies for women to help them break through internal and external barriers to gain promotions. An example of this is my work with SAP which set a goal of having 25 percent women in leadership ranks by 2017. The company teamed with me to help foster a culture of gender cooperation. Our work has since helped women evolve into management positions with stronger confidence and more support. In fact, women are applying at a 25 percent higher rate than before—and almost half of the women who apply get the position. Learn more of my insights, tips, and tools to support women in their career growth and leadership goals from my book #WomenAdvance.

Management development for frontline managers. Traditionally, learning and development for frontline and new managers has been ignored. According to a 2014 survey by Harvard Business Review Analytics and Halogen Software, only 12 percent of respondents said “their organization currently invests sufficiently in the development of frontline managers.” A McKinsey study found that just 7 percent of the training budget went to frontline managers. That figure has been rock steady since 2010.

But now there is a resurgence on having world-class managers because of new recognition that managers really drive employee satisfaction and engagement. In his book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, Bob Sutton reviewed the research on the impact of a person’s immediate boss on their productivity and engagement. Here’s how he summed it up, “The upshot of these and so many other studies and stories is that bosses pack a wallop, especially on their direct reports. Bosses shape how people spend their days and whether they experience joy or despair, perform well or badly, or are healthy or sick.” In support of this observation, a Gallup Poll about engagement in the workplace found that 70 percent of the workforce has been disengaged—and the managers’ role is key for engagement and job satisfaction. People stay in their roles if they like their bosses.

The newly appreciated frontline manager programs consist of teaching soft skills such as coaching, giving feedback, time management, situational leadership, and basic leadership skills. You can learn more about management programs I offer here.

Meditation and mindfulness in the workplace. These practices are still a bit uncommon but more companies are realizing the value of them. Google, for example, has found that managers that meditate have more productive employees who were calmer, more reflective, and more innovative. They came up with more creative ideas because of these practices. A recent article on Harvard Business Review cites multiple studies that show the practice of mindfulness can actually change your brain for the better. “Mindfulness should no longer be considered a “nice-to-have” for executives. It’s a ‘must-have’: a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress.”

Thus, many managers are looking at mindfulness for their teams and in their own lives; and a lot of companies are holding courses in meditation and mindfulness in addition trying to promote overall health and wellness.

New attention to diversity, frontline managers, and mindfulness will only make you and your organizations stronger. I have seen it firsthand and look forward to many more opportunities to helping grow your talent and bottom lines.

Melissa Lamson

About The Author

Melissa Lamson, Founder and President of Lamson Consulting, is an author, consultant, and speaker who accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross cultural communication.
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