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L&D Programs That Strengthen Leadership Across All Levels

What Are Learning & Development (L&D) Programs?

Learning and development (L&D) programs are one of the best ways to develop an engaged workforce that stays loyal to your organization — seven of 10 employees say that L&D opportunities influence their decision to stay with a company. These programs help employees develop new skills, excel in their current role, and advance their career.

But the amount of L&D programs to choose from can feel overwhelming. Conferences. Online courses. Mentorship programs. Training sessions. How do you prioritize L&D programs that will have the most impact on your employees off the bat?

This blog posts suggests you start by offering L&D programs that impact three core levels within your company: independent contributor, front-line manager, and director level or above. Your offerings will improve employee development across your organization as a result.


Skill Development for Independent Contributors

Independent contributors (ICs) are the boots on the ground keeping your business running. Keeping these employees motivated, productive, and invested will ensure that your business makes regular progress on its goals.

So focus on development programs that equip these employees with the resources and skills they need to excel. ICs often fall into two desired career paths: to develop as an individual contributor or to move into a management track. Aim for your training sessions to cover both, in order to best support all the ICs within your organization.

To further develop skills sets, consider offering:

  • A team bookshelf stocked with professional books
  • Opportunities to attend conferences and events
  • Lunch ‘n learns led by internal experts on certain skill sets
  • Budget for seminars, certifications, and other educational initiatives

To develop managerial skills, offer training sessions that improve tactical leadership skills like:

  • How to Lead Effective Meetings
  • Time Management 101
  • Project Management 101
  • Giving Constructive Feedback
  • Making Difficult Decisions


Support Systems for Front-Line Managers

Your front-line managers play a direct role in the impact of your teams — managers account for 70% variance in employee engagement scores. But, according to Gallup, only one in 10 people fully possess the managerial talent to engage employees, retain high performers, and sustain productivity.

Why the discrepancy? In fast-paced work environments, managers are caught all too often between executing on their own deliverables and supporting their teams. Balancing the two without the right resources can an inefficient use of managers’ time (and stressful).

For these front-line managers, offer an L&D program that helps them shift from managers to leaders. To start, open up the tactical training programs mentioned above. Add on to these with more strategic sessions focused on empowering teams, like:

  • Coaching Your Employees to Success
  • How to Engage in Active Listening
  • The Power of Delegating Smartly
  • Organizing Effective Performance Reviews
  • Handling Conflict Resolution

Next, crucially, organize support systems for your managers and their peers. They’ll act as a sounding board for your managers to share challenges, ask questions, and gather ideas… fostering their leadership development in a safe space.

These support systems could take the shape of:

  • Cohorts of managers that go through training sessions together. Set up time after each training session for cohorts to get together and discuss their learnings. Keep the groups small — five to eight people in each, if you can — so each cohort can build relationships and create a safe space.
  • Coaches that are assigned to managers and act as confidential sounding boards. These coaches shouldn’t be in the manager’s line of command. Rather, they should be a leader from another team or completely external to your organization. That way, they’ll provide a fresh perspective and no judgement as they help your manager develop.
  • Communication channels for managers to turn to one another for advice whenever needed. This can include private Slack channels, a group email alias, or a monthly company-sponsored lunch. Get creative!


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Strategic Development for Directors and Above

Your directors, vice presidents, and C-suite employees are here to set strategy and lead their teams through its execution. Provide development opportunities that, at a high level, help your leaders achieve both these goals. In this case, offer an immersive leadership training program — perhaps via a team retreat or offsite over the course of a few days.

This L&D offsite should walk through three components:

  • Personal Leadership This component dives into each leader’s strengths, capabilities, and working styles. Each member of your leadership team likely possesses strong, independent leadership styles. Use this session to better understand everyone’s approach to leadership and how they can best channel their peers’ strengths towards a common goal. Consider turning to some outside resources here: ask your leaders to take a test like Myers-Briggs or StrengthsFinder beforehand and bring in an expert to lead this session.
  • Business Leadership — This component focuses on your organization’s business strategy. For maximum impact, ask your CEO to lead the group through a high-intensity strategy setting session, aimed at answering a top-line question your organization is working to answer. Ask your leaders to apply their learnings from Session #1 and leverage everyone’s strengths as they develop the strategy.
  • Team Leadership — With your leadership team’s strengths and your business’s upcoming strategy in mind, spend your third session working through how your leaders can foster high-performance teams. This session can be more of a brainstorm and working session, perhaps facilitated by one of the leaders themselves, your CEO, or an outside expert.

Want to learn more about learning and development programs? Check out our three ideas for how to engage employees through professional development programs.

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