An audience of L&D professionals sat in a large conference room at London’s Learning Technologies event to hear from Helen Palmer, Head of e-Learning Advisors at Credit Suisse. Softly spoken, with a clear passion around leadership, Helen delivered an engaging insight into her role as an L&D leader, with all the challenges and opportunities that come with having a huge workload, coupled with a small, remote team. She laid it bare. In L&D, we generally don’t make life and death decisions, but we should acknowledge that it can often be stressful and intense.
Dwindling resources and pressure to get results are commonplace among our own network of talent professionals. This is reflected in a People Management poll of 641 HR & L&D professionals, in which well over one third said they felt stressed or overwhelmed because of work at least four times a month.
As optimistic believers in ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, here are 6 sources of stress that your L&D colleagues are also facing; and ideas on how to address them in the context of our area of expertise – leadership development.
1. Lack of consistency in training across the company
The majority of our clients have global operations, with all the well-documented challenges that working on a global scale can bring. It is incredibly common for regional and centralised HR/L&D teams to come up against inconsistencies in what training is offered in what region, which can then result in wide variation in what standards look like when it comes to leadership behaviours. Not to mention the challenges around driving consistency whilst being sensitive to the differences in learning cultures around the world. Being able to provide a wide range of resources – across the business – can help to align local and global HR teams. The real value is found when those resources can be tailored for the specific audience, without losing the sense of consistency and common language.
2. Extortionate costs of leadership development and consulting
Whereas leadership development used to be reserved for the elite few, it’s more widely accepted these days that pretty much everyone leads every day. Each of us is frequently asked to lead teams, locally and virtually; seamlessly step into new roles; lead projects; adapt to new situations; and coach peers and onboard new colleagues. Of course, we all need support in learning how best to do each of these things, and that comes at a cost. A prohibitive cost. The result is a full circle, back to providing training and development to a select few. Look for cost-effective partnerships with learning providers that enable you to maximise the reach of your leadership development initiatives. Stop repeatedly paying for the same old content, and make sure you are gaining access to the latest best practices that reflect the changing leadership needs of your people.
3. Being distracted from your defined leadership standards
Do you ever feel pulled in multiple directions? Of course, such a sentiment is not unique to the world of L&D, but you only have to look at our tried-and-tested Work of Leaders model to see just how many variations there are according to leadership level and type of role. You simply can’t do everything. Instead, we recommend retaining a focus on your leadership values and standards – and use that as a guiding light for the supporting development that is required. When was your leadership framework last refreshed? Does it align with the current and near-future world you will be working in? How does it match the organisational strategy? As mentioned above, there is a huge number of leadership moments occurring every day, throughout your organisation. By honing in on your own company values, and building leadership development initiatives around those, you will be doing the best you can to ensure your people feel confident to show leadership qualities whenever those moments take place.
4,. Who will deliver the training my team needs to provide?
While there is a growing trend for ‘leaders as teachers’, this is often still a headache for L&D teams. A shrinking headcount means that once you have gone through the process of identifying training needs and developing the programmes, the reality hits as to who will deliver the content. Heads of L&D will know that consistency in delivery is key – localised and tailored content, yes – but also quality assurance. There is, however, help available, and how much you call on external facilitators can be flexed according to the workload and availability of your internal trainers. When planning your L&D programmes, consider how an upfront investment in Train the Trainer or Suite Certification could save your budget in the longer term.
5. Time-consuming creation of content from scratch
One-size certainly doesn’t fit all, but with the right leadership development strategy in place, the same themes will keep coming up. Believe us. We’ve worked with hundreds of companies, addressing the leadership needs of thousands of managers at all levels. Yet, time and time again, we see the same ‘base challenges’ arise. They tend to be tricky, conceptual challenges that rely on individual and team behaviour change to drive culture change. Innovation, feedback, healthy conflict, resilience, collaboration … sounding familiar? Don’t try to reinvent the wheel any more often that you need to. Content can be used as basic ingredients, leaving you free to tailor for the audience and use the ingredients to build exciting new recipes.
6. Feeling isolated
One of our clients recently shared that, personally speaking, she likes to turn to her trusted external partners when she needs some fresh ideas, to sense-check her thinking, or simply to listen to what else is going on in the L&D space beyond her own network and industry. Benefitting from collective expertise cannot be overvalued, and is a great source of confidence. When you feel genuinely confident about the direction you are taking, you are bound to take more people on the journey with you. Be open to collaborating in unexpected places – reach out to other people and you’ll likely find they are feeling the same way as you do. Learning from each other, and supporting each other, can help you to sense-check your own plans and gain new ideas on how to get the results you’re looking for.
Talk to us about how we can support with any of these challenges – many of our solutions, including our popular Alliance membership, benefit individual L&D practitioners as well as addressing the demands of the business itself.