How to Train New Employees on Leadership

About seven out of ten organizations believe leadership development training is needed for every employee, according to Brandon Hall Group’s study, Creating Leadership Development for Everyone 58% of organizations are working to build a culture of continuous leader learning. The trend, which has evolved over the past few years, is to democratize leadership development as much as possible.

More than 80% of organizations surveyed said democratizing leadership development has the following significant benefits for both employees and employers 

However, offering leadership development across an entire enterprise — especially large ones — has challenges and competes with many other learning priorities, research respondents said. In addition, more than 60% said fully democratized leadership development could send the wrong message.

Despite the interest in offering leadership development to all employees and the acknowledged benefits it provides to employees and employers, only 35% of organizations provide some type of leadership training for every employee now.

The problem with this is that the nature of leadership is changing. Leadership used to be associated with management and top-down authority. But in a hybrid workforce where various types of teams — from traditional work teams to cross-functional teams, project teams and more — are called upon to drive business results, strong leadership behaviors must be demonstrated more broadly and at all levels. 

Every year when Brandon Hall Group asks about the most critical human capital management priorities, leadership development ranks at or near the top. More organizations should act on their instinct — that fully democratized leadership development is critical — and expand leadership training to all levels of the organization. Clearly, there are some challenges and obstacles, but they are worth addressing and overcoming. 

Among the challenges to democratized leadership is a basic one: What are the best ways to introduce leadership to new employees or employees who have not previously experienced this type of training? 

The goal of fully democratized leadership development is to create a cohesive leadership culture transcending all levels and geographies. With everyone operating from the same set of leadership behaviors, a rich, inclusive collaborative culture can be built. 

However, there are different levels of proficiency. In democratizing leadership, organizations must decide the foundations that should be established for all employees, which then can be built upon and added to over time. 

Competency Mix 

We asked research respondents to provide their ideal mix of five competencies that were seen in previous research as critical for foundational leadership training. Here are the averages: 

Emotional intelligence, or EQ as it is often referred to, emerged as the competency deserving considerably more attention than the other competencies. This makes sense because it is comprised of four related domains — self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Each can help leaders face any situation with lower levels of stress, less emotional reactivity and few unintended consequences. 

Imagine if everyone in your organization were strong — or at least more developed — in emotional intelligence. It opens the door to more open and effective collaboration, feedback, development, conflict resolution and more. Everyone operates with the same understanding of how to conduct oneself and the impact their behaviors have on others. 

Strong emotional intelligence also influences resiliency and change readiness, which is important because of the VUCA environment in which organizations often work. Embracing diversity and promoting inclusion is critical to modern literacy and ranks just a tick below resiliency. Strategy and execution also are important. While new or frontline employees might not leverage this right away, it is a foundational skill that should be introduced and then built upon. While digital literacy is viewed as less important, it is still a good foundation for leading and collaborating, especially in an increasingly virtual world. 

The other key building block to strong leadership, which is missing from this list, is business acumen. Everyone, whether they are in a line role or working in some leadership role, must operate in the context of their business and industry and understand the needs of internal and external stakeholders. Consider introducing business acumen in basic leadership training, especially if employees are not exposed to it in onboarding or other areas of training. 

Mix of Learning Modalities 

Respondents indicated that experiential learning — including coaching, mentoring and on-the-job training — should be used most often in delivering leadership training for all employees. Here are the averages for different types of learning used: 

When looking at leadership development overall, we agree that experiential learning is best for helping leaders apply strong leadership behaviors in a variety of situations. But when it comes to prioritizing learning modalities, employers need to consider several variables, most notably scale. 

When you train all employees — which can be tens or even hundreds of thousands – experiential learning at all levels of the organization is generally not scalable. When introducing leadership foundations — such as emotional intelligence — formal and informal learning are better suited for providing knowledge and reinforcing it. Over time, or as employees move into new roles and responsibilities, more experiential learning (as well as continued reinforcement and peer discussions) can be leveraged to drive the practical application of leadership principles in various situations. 

It’s important that organizations carefully consider their learning strategy for democratizing leadership development at scale.

Like what you see? Share with a friend.

Mike Cooke



Stay connected

Get notified for upcoming news subscribing

Related Content

Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.

Resubscribe to our email distribution list.