When was the last time the company you work for offered leadership training to employees that didn’t already hold positions somewhere near the top? But who says leadership training should be reserved exclusively for company leaders? And what might happen if leadership training was offered to all employees instead?
Why is leadership training important for all employees?
In reality, the notion that leadership training is useful only to top-level employees is just an assumption. There is no evidence supporting this claim.
So, the question becomes: is there evidence to support that leadership training is important for all employees, and that implementing it across all departments and seniority levels is beneficial?
The short answer? Yes.
Around 1,000 senior-level organization leaders were surveyed in the 2018 Global Leadership Forecast. The data offers insight into the top concerns leaders have for the years to come. On this list were issues like, “slowing economic growth in emerging markets”, “labor relations”, and “global recession”.
However, the top 2 concerns on this list were none of those. Instead, they were “develop ‘Next Gen’ leaders” and “failure to attract/retain top talent”. These were cited more than twice as frequently as other issues. So when all is said and done, leadership training across the board is not something you should ignore.
What do we mean by leadership training?
Before we get into the tangible benefits, we should establish that leadership training is training developed for the purpose of teaching individuals the skills of a good leader. These skills include things like discipline, work ethic, vision, and the ability to inspire and motivate themselves and others.
Despite the myth that “leaders are born” and not created, these skills can be taught and improved. And the fact that developing leadership skills is possible is reason enough to tear down the exclusivity surrounding leadership training, and to make it available to all employees.
5 benefits of company-wide leadership training
1. Your employees will become better decision makers
Leadership training for employees, done right, teaches them to weigh risks and benefits, pros and cons, and to envision multiple possible outcomes. This way of thinking is something we all exercise in our daily lives.
Learning to actively apply this thought process when it comes to our work is closely related to developing soft skills in the workplace. They’re important for managers and supervisors to have. But imagine how much smoother day-to-day operations would run if every employee was trained in this mindset.
Executive leadership training doesn’t have to imply that it’s only useful for those in charge of leading others. People who are leaders exercise self-reliance, sufficiency, and discipline. Employees who have the chance to learn about and apply this forward thinking don’t just become more decisive. The decisions they make are also more consistently the best ones they could’ve made in a given situation.
The benefits of leadership training for all employees are far-reaching. Improved individual performance and personal responsibility translate into an easier time for your managers, and goals they can reach more frequently.
What is more, a leader that is leading other leaders doesn’t have to micromanage. Having a technically trained workforce may be the first step to success. But employees who can also self-manage and choose the best courses of action consistently are the true foundation of a successful business, regardless of size or industry.
2. You’ll see significant improvement in company structure and organization
When we think of leadership in a company setting, we often imagine a pyramid-like structure. At the top, you have your CEO or founder, and perhaps some board members. Below you might have vice presidents or supervisors, depending on the size of the company. Following them there are managers, and at the base of the pyramid you have employees.
In this classic structure, we imagine a chain of communication, from employee to manager to supervisor to CEO. A one-person-at-a-time type of interaction. But leadership doesn’t have to mean singular leadership. Collective leadership exists when two or more people lead a team together.
The same report that outlines managerial concerns also shows that organizations that operate using collective leadership are more likely to make better informed, data-driven decisions. This type of leadership allows for multiple perspectives when it comes to making decisions. As a result, these organizations respond better to competition and to customers’ needs.
Collective leadership promotes a more flat workforce structure within a company. It eliminates this feeling of second-class citizenship between levels of management, where some people are treated as more valuable or important than others. When information is spread out and dispersed properly among employees, people feel more valued. This means they’re more motivated to perform better.
The importance of acquiring and training leadership skills becomes clear when we think about how essential it is for a company that wants to operate with a flat structure. Eliminating a divisive environment and collapsing a pyramid-like structure becomes all the more possible when you’ve taken the time to train everyone in what it means to be a leader.
3. The company is better equipped to handle the unexpected (aka the future)
Companies surveyed in the Global Leadership Forecast report on average, “only 42% of critical roles can be filled rapidly by internal candidates.” So what happens if there’s an emergency? Do company operations come to a screeching halt?
More importantly, what is being done to improve this percentage? Is leadership training being made available to all employees?
In short, no.
Companies understand the importance of leadership in business. And yet 46% of them continue to offer it exclusively to employees who have been specifically identified as having high potential to advance within the company.
When it comes to assessing and handling risk, leadership is important in business. Having a workforce that has been indiscriminately trained in leadership skills is the key to mitigating information risk.
Information risk in this context refers to the risk that builds up when a single person is privy to knowledge, and others don’t share this same information. If something were to happen to this singular leader that results in them no longer being able to work for the company, then the void in knowledge left behind is massive, and the company can no longer run smoothly.
But when key information is shared with more than just one other person, the risk of operations coming to a standstill decreases significantly. Successfully mitigating this type of information risk is essential to keeping things running smoothly, both in the immediate and the long-term future.
The reality is that while developing future leaders is consistently listed as a top concern by management, it is inconsistently being addressed. As long as leadership development training continues to be reserved for the few, then there will continue to be a shortage of people who are equipped with the necessary skills to fill critical positions.
4. The presence (or absence) of wide-spread leadership training affects company profits
Let’s face it: leadership training and development is not without cost. And based on the limited implementation of this training, it’s no surprise that businesses spend more money on leadership training activities for employees at senior levels than they do on any other group.
But how can we know that expanding this training to all employees will be worth the additional cost of doing so?
The same study that shows us its limited reach also shows that when a business chose to extend leadership skills training to employees in positions lower than senior-level people, it was 4.2 times more likely to outperform an organization that didn’t. It outperformed these other businesses in areas including revenue growth, operating margin, and return on equity.
Who knew a little leadership and management training spread across a workforce could go such a long way?
5. Giving everyone a chance to develop leadership qualities will help attract and retain top talent
No matter the industry, employee turnover is costly. It’s important to keep employee turnover rates low to prevent unnecessary waste of money and resources. But in a labor market that is favoring employees more than employers, it can be challenging to find and keep top performers.
This reality highlights the importance of leadership and development in the workplace, since its presence (or lack thereof) will separate you from other competitors. Employees are looking for ways to grow and enhance their skills at minimal personal cost. By offering corporate leadership training, you give them one more reason to happily stay (or join) your company.
An additional advantage of offering leadership training to everyone is that it increases the chances of discovering talent that has existed under your own roof the whole time. This will help increase your company’s percentage of roles that could be rapidly filled by promoting from within.
The data also shows that when companies make leadership training available to all employees, more women hold positions of authority in all levels of management, and that senior-level leadership tends to be of a higher quality.
Put simply, leadership training is important for all employees because it’s an investment in your people. And companies who don’t invest in their people don’t stay open for business as often.
When it comes to leadership training, choose all instead of nothing
One training session on what it means to be a leader does not a workforce of leaders make. Leadership training that actually takes hold and produces a workforce full of leaders is not something you can design and put in place overnight. It’s an investment. It takes time to show returns.
But it’s not a risky investment. Well implemented, effective leadership training will bear fruit. And the sweetness that is higher productivity, an improved work environment, and increased profits, is fruit that no business should pass on.