Urgent Demands For Today’s Leadership Development

leadership development demandsLeadership development remains a top business priority year over year – the story remains unchanged. The chapters, however, are being re-written. Like business goals change, so are our leader demographics. The workforce has more Millennial leaders today than last year, and it will have more next year than this year. The trend will continue for the next ten years or so. Millennial leaders’ development needs and expectations look different than the Gen X leaders who, until very recently, have represented most of our leadership teams.

Millennials, and even more seasoned leaders in our workplaces today, are not satisfied with only formal, in-classroom training programs. Core leadership development training programs are not necessarily being eliminated, but by themselves, they are just not enough to create leadership development that makes a business difference.  Transformations in our workforces and workplaces today are fervently influencing today’s leadership development decisions and actions.

Leadership Development Transformations

Our 2015 State of Leadership Development Study spotlighted four contemporary transformations underscoring an organization’s ability to implement high performance (what we call Level 4) leadership development:

Four Transformations Underscoring Today’s Leadership Development
1. A dramatic change in leadership demographics — a new leader is moving in: Out with Boomers and in with Millennials
2. A reprioritization of leader development – all leaders should be targeted for development, particularly younger leaders: Out with focusing on development just for executives and high potentials and in with quality experiences for all leader levels with a special focus on development for Millenial leaders
3. A shift in learning delivery for leaders – the “modern learner” has arrived: Out with traditional training programs building skills leader by leader, in with ongoing opportunities to immerse leaders in learning experiences and building functional expertise
4. The arrival of leadership analytics – “what if” leadership planning is now in play: Out with leader program completion metrics and in with leadership requirements forecasting capability

Source: 2015 Brandon Hall Group State of Leadership Development, n=242

Leadership Development Calls to Action

Today’s leadership development transformations implicate four vital calls to action to improve the business impact of leadership development:

leadership calls to action


Source: 2015 Brandon Hall Group State of Leadership Development, n=242

  1. Understand the New Leadership Workforce Demographics: Our workforce has changed and more change is imminent. With 10,000 or more Baby Boomers retiring each day, only 16% of today’s workforces are Gen Xers. And by 2020 data shows that nearly half of all US workers will belong to Gen Y. Currently, 15% of Millennials are already in management roles, and more than half (53%) of Millennials aspire to become the leader or most senior executive within their current, or other, organization. The challenge is here – and in full blaze. A “new sheriff is in town” with new expectations and demands about organizational investment and approach to their learning, leader development, and career moves.


  1. Accelerate Development of Millennial Leaders: Over the next one to two years, organizations say the top priorities for leadership development are closing leader-skill gaps (58%) and closing critical leader gaps across all leader levels (43%). With Millennials occupying 15% of management positions today and that number expected to more than double in fewer than 10 years, combined with the relative impending retirement of Baby Boomers means that employers will continue to face leadership gaps. Large ones, especially if immediate action is not taken. Fast tracking Millennial leader development – starting now – is the burning need in organizations everywhere to close both current and anticipated leader opportunity and performance gaps.


  1. Institutionalize “Just For Me, Just What I Need, Just When I Need It” Leader Learning Experiences: Today’s leaders – at all levels — and particularly Millennial leaders, demand a lifelong learning experience, supported by on-demand and easily searchable micro content shaped and prescribed for their specific learning and knowledge requirements at the point of need. The true focus of their development, regardless of generation or leader level, should be on encouraging leaders to question and explore, to experience and innovate – not on forcing them to consume a catalogue of pre-designed training modules comprising a fixed curriculum delivered as a one-way transfer bound by the classroom’s time and place.

    To these points, for that half (56.3%) of organizations still depending largely on formal classroom training, the time has arrived to rethink and transform your leader development delivery strategy. While our annual survey data points to ongoing effectiveness of the classroom experience in leadership development, it alone is no longer enough. In addition to the classroom learning, Level 4 organizations have re-oriented their leader development approach to the social, mobile, video and network-enabled “just for me experience” prescription. This includes mobility assignments to build leader experience – 100%; on-the-job development – 51.3%; participation in cross-functional teams – 39%; coaching – 34%; and a host of on-demand mobile, social, and video-based micro content. In short, our leaders’ appetite and demand for learning extends far beyond the traditional core leader level classroom training programs. Today’s leaders are becoming digitally savvy or are already digital natives, and they expect to be virtually connected all the time engaging with learning experiences (not programs) that allow knowledge to flow anywhere, all the time, just when needed, and “just for me” in a continuous and immersive fashion.


  1. Use Predictive Leadership Analytics: 89% of organizations said using predictive analytics to anticipate “what-if” leadership requirements is important or very important, yet only 7% of organizations have fully adopted predictive capability. By and large, organizations are not yet applying predictive analytics to their organization’s biggest asset—its leaders. That is not the case in Level 4 organizations, however, which have embraced leadership analytics as a means of competitive advantage. The starting point here is understanding the difference between and importance of two types of leadership data: leadership metrics and leadership analytics.

    Leadership metrics inform what is happening today with leadership development. Indicators such as these are captured and shared with stakeholders: % of leaders completing new supervisor training, % of turnover in the VP Sales role over the last 5 years, # of high potential leaders promoted, # of mid level leaders in our 3rd world country plants.

    Leadership analytics enable forecasting of “what if” leadership planning. For example, what if 50% of our Gen X leaders retire in the next 3 years, then what leadership skill gaps will be created? What if 50% of our Millennial leaders hired in the last 12 months leave in the next 3 years, then what is the cost of replacement? What is the opportunity cost? What is the business continuity risk? Or, how many Millennial leaders in position today can we expect to leave if we don’t promote them in the next 15 months? Leadership analytics help organizations with statistically sound, real-time decision-making regarding “what if” leadership scenarios and forward-looking leadership requirements.

Most organizations admit that they could be doing a better job in closing leadership gaps. Their challenge is keeping pace with today’s new requirements and actually doing it.

How is your leadership development strategy stepping up to these burning transformations? What unexpected hurdles are you powering through? What results are you getting? What actions are still facing you? What help do you need?

Until next time…


Laci Loew
Vice President and Principal Analyst, Talent Management
Brandon Hall Group

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