66% of Companies See a Focus on L&D as Being Critical to Successful Ongoing Transformation: Here’s Why

For the last several years, the nature of work has been drastically changing to the point when ongoing transformation has become the new norm. However, this is just a consecutive response to the fluid world we live in. The thing is that in the future, changes will be even more disruptive and faster-paced, so companies need to make smart investments in skills development, organizational infrastructure, and technology to not become a casualty of transformation.

To do more, to be more efficient and innovative in a time of rigorous competition between large traditional organizations and disruptive startups, your company needs to think bold, innovative but at the same time rational. This calls for outstanding leaders who can spread a vision across teams, reaching every employee and enabling them to unfold their full potential.

Technology and leadership development as two key business transformation imperatives

The transition to a digital workplace will create enormous changes across industries. In particular, 79% of companies will undergo substantial or extensive changes within the next five years with 54% already experiencing it now. However, a lot of executives say that their companies are not ready to keep up with the upcoming transformation. A recent global survey by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services reflects this, reporting that only 7% of organizations are open to embracing changes with 35% being somewhat open to change. The problem lies not in executives’ unawareness of the need for change but in organizational inertia and resistance. This is the result of their fear of not being able to keep pace with changes in a highly digitized workplace environment.   

When executives were asked about what means will be the most effective in creating a change-embracing organization to undergo transformation successfully, they singled out three crucial aspects: leadership communication (53%), leadership modeling new behaviors (44%), and technologies that would facilitate the change (35%). Other factors included granting more autonomy to employees (31%), new organizational structures (29%), and training in new skills or processes (25%). Such results are not surprising. A company’s readiness to move forward lies in defining a new strategy, effectively transmitting this strategy across all teams so that every individual is on the same page with their fellow workers, and reshaping organizational activities that demand investments in technology and skills.

The 2018 State Of Leadership Development: Meeting The Transformation Imperative report by HBR also emphasizes leadership development and investments in technology as a means to undergo changes successfully.

Digital Masters achieve so much more because they maintain a dual perspective on the transformation they must bring about. The first one is the most straightforward: they make smart investments in digital technology to innovate their customer engagements and the business processes and business models that support them. The second is too often forgotten. Digital Masters build strong leadership capabilities to envision and drive transformation within their companies and their cultures.

While technologies have already taken over the workplace to better streamline workflow, the decisive source of advantage now lies in effective leadership. The HBR report shows that companies that consider leadership development to be essential for their business development are 29 times more likely to experience a successful transformation.

Scott Anthony, from HBR, emphasizes that transformation can be highly beneficial for businesses if they build a group of leaders with the right mindsets and capabilities.

Bringing transformational leadership to meet millennials’ expectations

By now, we’ve figured out that leadership development is of high importance for ensuring the future success of a company’s transformation. The next question is in what way companies should develop their leaders.  

Since by 2020 millennials will comprise over a third of the global workforce and a lot of them will advance into senior positions, they will be the ones to drive change. At the same time, Generation X will keep holding leadership ranks, so they have to know millennial workers’ expectations of the way leaders should act and be developed.

The HBR report dedicated a separate section to millennials’ view on leadership development, noting that this generation sees a greater role for technology in leadership development programs. Moreover, they want to see more significant improvements in these programs, complaining about the lack of innovation due to “poor content, insufficient thinking and expertise, and a failure to make a compelling return-on-investment case.”

So what kind of a leader do millennials want? One who motivates and inspires everybody in a team—someone who encourages innovation and creates all necessary conditions for it, who can clearly communicate their vision and let others share their ideas. They want someone who is a passionate mentor, who allows for autonomy, provides timely support, can foster honesty and transparency—an individual who challenges their company’s limits and strives for more. In other words, they want a transformational leader.

Jeff Bezos, CEO at Amazon, is a great example of a transformational leader. Harvard Business Review reviewed business leaders, judging them by “the introduction of new products, services and business models; repositioning of their business; and financial performance.” Bezos was at the top of the list. Thanks to his background in the finance world, he brought a new perspective to e-commerce, serving as an agent of change. Bezos links long-term business objectives with employees’ values and needs, inspiring them to act. He also pushed the boundaries of the company by transforming it from an online bookstore to the biggest online retailer in the world.

So what are the takeaways from the Jeff Bezos’ views on transformational leadership?

1. “I’ll be there for you.”

Leadership is all about human relationships. How do you treat each employee? Do you resonate with their aspirations, support them, give directions towards solving challenges, act as a mentor when needed, as well as recognize their individual progress? If so, you’re on the right track.

When people feel support and know that their leaders take care of their professional and personal development, valuing every contribution to the business, they feel intrinsic motivation to do their best. This is the way to build a growth mindset and future-proof your company.

2. “You’re not alone in this boat, kiddo.”

Transformational leaders focus on teamwork and talent development. They don’t see unexpected situations as failures, but rather as good lessons to learn from. They support their teams with continuous, hands-on training and ensure streamlined communication across their organization.

Such leaders encourage employees to ask questions, collaborate, and enhance team accountability, not only individual’s, because they understand that in order to follow a company’s vision and achieve goals, everyone should “row a boat” in synch.  

3. “Try and fail, but never fail to try.”

Transformation is done through creativity and innovation but introduces the possibility of failure on the path to success. This means that the leader’s task is to challenge employees, expand their professional horizon, solicit ideas, and allow reasonable risks.  

By nurturing independent thinking, creativity, problem-solving and risk-taking, leaders inspire others to take action and commit to their company’s mission.

4. “We’re here to make a difference.”

Millennials are driven by the desire to make a difference in the world, their company, and themselves. So while giving tasks (even routine ones), leaders have to provide meaning, explaining how they’re going to contribute towards the completion of the broader goal.

Employees need to clearly understand why they get up every morning to do what they do. At the same time, transformational leaders have to understand what available resources and capabilities a company can provide, so that teams can make their contribution.

Focus on L&D to seize transformation opportunities

Though transformational leadership sounds like a good idea, training programs that could help leaders develop in this direction are far from perfect. The HBR report shows that only 52% of respondents see their organization’s development programs as relevant to current business challenges. Moreover, 75% of L&D professionals recognize the need for some improvement in the programs they design.

To help leaders build the necessary capabilities and mindsets for conquering transformation, L&D teams have to tie their training leadership programs to their current organizational activities as well as their future business goals. Moreover, agility must be at the heart of these development programs so that L&D professionals can change them on the fly if a company has to meet unexpected, urgent needs.

A smart, data-driven learning platform helps L&D professionals build agile training programs by leveraging individuals’ performance data, scientific-based gamification, and social learning, aligning them with specific business needs.

According to the HBR report, 66% of organizations that see L&D as being critical to successfully demonstrate higher revenue growth, stronger market positions, and better future growth potential. So, if companies are considering in which technologies they would need to invest in order to lead a successful business transformation, it’s important to choose an effective learning platform. Through ongoing leadership development, companies will be able to foster a culture of change in their organizations and even step up transformation in their industries.

If you want to boost leadership development in your company and enable successful workplace transformation, request a demo of Rallyware’s performance-based training platform today!