Funding and staff time toward supervisory, leadership and diversity learning programs will go up this year, a new study from Novations Group Inc. reports. These three varieties of employee development led 14 categories in a survey of more than 2,500 senior HR and learning executives conducted in December 2007.
Supervisory/managerial and leadership/executive development training were overwhelmingly favored as the top priorities for learning leaders in 2008, with 42 percent and 41 percent of participants predicting increased efforts in those areas, respectively.
Although diversity/inclusion was a distant third at 26 percent, it did jump by seven points from last year’s poll, the largest increase of any of the options in the survey. Rounding out the top five were sales/customer service (22 percent) and interpersonal/teamwork (20 percent).
According to Novations CEO and President Mike Hyter, the two primary trends driving respondents’ emphasis on these particular learning experiences are economic globalization and the variety of individuals in the workforce, particularly where multigenerational differences are concerned.
“A lot of that has to do with the demographic shifts in the United States and globally that have brought together different kinds of people,” he said. “Companies are emphasizing developing skills for managing people who may not be like you. Generational differences and global relationships are accelerating this phenomenon. We don’t have a population with monolithic values who all move in the same direction when leaders tell them to anymore.”
Interestingly, the survey was dominated by soft skills: The highest technical learning category was IT skills/systems, which came in sixth place with 19 percent. “I think people are beginning to realize that these are the most difficult skills to implement and execute,” Hyter said. “It’s hard to do in an effective way, even though it’s viewed as ‘soft.’”
Leadership and management are especially important soft skills, due in part to the fact that so many companies are expecting to lose so much talent because of large retirement and turnover rates in the coming years.
“With the baby boomers retiring, organizations — especially the mature companies — are now facing a huge gap with qualified people in the queue to fill these director, vice president and executive roles,” Hyter explained. “Yet, they also realize that if they don’t keep work interesting for entry-level people, they’ll lose them at a much faster rate. They have to look at how to make a better investment in how they develop skills managers need to develop and motivate their people more effectively, so that they’ve got higher retention and can form a bench.
“What companies are beginning to recognize is that learning how to manage people and assets isn’t enough anymore,” he added. “The technical training that comes with how to provide a review or create an action plan is being augmented by how to effectively develop talent to prepare your organization for change. What it takes to keep people interested — especially with millennials — requires a set of skills that most baby-boomer managers don’t have.”
At the bottom of the list are basic skills and business practices, with only 8 percent and 15 percent forecasting increases in these areas. Hyter said these categories were generally static by nature.
“These are always required. It’s a given that those are necessary, so they’re more likely to be fundamentally the same. There’s more of a highlighted investment in the effectiveness of people who lead or manage others, who already have basic skills and business practices knowledge.”