New manager training doesn’t work.
By Kevin Kruse
We are experiencing the biggest shift in corporate training and development of the last 30 years, and it is disrupting our entire approach to new manager training and leadership development.
Our industry groups and analysts are begging us to pay attention. The Association for Talent Development calls is Revolution 4.0. Industry guru Josh Bersin describes it as a “typhoon.” What we are experiencing is actually a double shift of generational change and technology breakthroughs.
Shift #1: The Age of Millennial Management
We all know that millennials are upon us. As baby boomers retire at a record pace, and millennials (age 25 to 35) come rushing in, they’ll form 50% of the workforce in just two years and 75% of the workforce by 2025. While the press and trend-following keynote speakers have been answering, “How do we manage those darn millennials,” time has passed and those millennials are now becoming managers themselves.
Shift #2: AI Has Arrived
The joke is that we’ve been ten years away from AI for the last fifty years. But AI is here, right now. It’s in our self-driving cars and smartphones, it powers our smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home, and is what drives the personalization engines of Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify. And from chatbots to predictive analytics AI is already deployed in HR and training. But the power of AI for leader analytics has barely been touched.
What Millennial Managers Think Of Current Training
Soon, we will have more inexperienced managers, with fewer senior leaders above them, than at any time in history. What do they think of the existing new manager training programs? We recently surveyed over 200 first-time managers–ranging in age from 27 to 32–working in either mid-size or large enterprise companies. Representative open-ended comments included:
- “My generation really doesn’t want to learn from Powerpoints.”
- “We took some online training about harassment, diversity, and what kind of questions to ask if we’re interviewing someone. But nothing about motivating people or how to be a strong team.”
- “It’s crazy. I can watch any episode of Friends in three clicks on my phone. But it’s like dozens of clicks, logins and popup windows to start an e-learning course.”
- “We have tuition reimbursement, a corporate university, and supposedly over a thousand courses on the network. But there just isn’t any time. Zero time.”
- “I like learning about stuff but the work training isn’t very good. I just listen to podcasts, watch TED talks, and sometimes read.”
What New Managers Want From Their Training
So if our new generation of managers isn’t in love with our current solutions from classroom room training to online learning catalogs, what do they want? Thankfully we don’t have to guess. The Global Leadership Forecast 2018 surveyed over 25,000 leaders. What leaders said they wanted more of from training, listed below, may actually be realized through the smart use of AI:
- Personalized. Self-awareness is the foundation of great leadership and it’s likely you are already investing a lot in this area. From personality assessments, communication styles, and strength profiles we spend a lot to discover what makes each manager tick. But are you using that data to personalize your training programs? When training on delegation do you explain to highly conscientious managers that they need to be careful not to micromanage? Does your training explain to managers low in conscientiousness that they need to delegate, not just dump?
- Coaching. One of the big ironies in our industry is that the people who get executive coaches are the ones who already have the most experience. Who (or what) coaches your front-line managers? Do they have a new developmental goal every quarter? Do they have someone to motivate them, and to hold them accountable?
- On Demand. Bersin calls the new paradigm “learning in the flow of work.” Nobody wants to travel to a remote seminar. Nobody has the time to be away from their desk for several days. Modern learners have been informally trained to just look things up on Google or YouTube. How much of your leadership development curriculum is available at any time. How many minutes does it take to go from the desire to learn something, and the learning intervention itself?
- Ongoing (long-term). Too often training is delivered as a “one and done” event. (An old Australian friend of mine used to call it the “sheep dip” approach to training.) But we know from numerous studies that we quickly forget much of what we learn in our day(s) long training programs, and very little ever gets applied. Rather than viewing management training as a “boot camp” style event, how can training become continuous?
- Mobile. The call it the consumerization of enterprise software. Our modern workers expect digital solutions at work to be as easy to use (and perhaps as engaging) as the apps on their phone. Most of us now have access to 12,000 movies and TV shows (Netflix), 20 million songs (Spotify), and 4 million ebooks (Kindle)–all in the palm of our hand. How many leadership development programs are on your new managers’ smartphones? How many clicks does it take to access them?
There Will Be Winners And Losers
We know from Gallup research that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is tied to the manager. Who your boss is, counts for a lot. It counts for discretionary effort, performance, service, safety, employee grievances, and more. And when it comes it comes to talent retention, that old saying, “You join a company but leave a boss” is largely true.
Those who fail to take action now—who fail to move quickly to adopt new training strategies—will be overtaken by those who recognized that these mega-shifts are both a threat and an opportunity.
Innovative leadership development professionals who adapt quickly will turn their organizations into millennial talent magnets. Front-line leaders will unleash the discretionary effort of their teams, and retention will be high.
While the impact of these shifts may be arguable, nobody can risk sitting on the sidelines. At the very least, ask yourself, “How can I deliver a better learning experience to our managers?” And, “How might AI-powered chatbots, personalization, and analytics give us an edge?”
Kevin Kruse is the founder of LEADx.org, an AI-powered, leadership development platform for the modern workforce.