Getting the next generation of leaders ready for the business needs of the gig economy requires development that is fluid, on-demand and aligned to the individual’s career journey. Development can no longer be a static event that takes place only in the confines of a classroom setting. It’s simply not enough.
A lot of companies talk about their people being their greatest assets, but not many actually put their money where their mouth is. They pay lip service to the idea of development, to a misconceived notion of knowledge, and skill development being a one-stop shop. Go to a class, or attend a conference, and when you come back … all of your problems will be solved. Forge forward in your career and make good things happen. This is the common misconception in many of the client organizations my consulting practice has worked with recently.
“Employees are having a hard time adjusting to the new change/product/organization (insert words here)?”
Training, despite all of its intentions, is not a cure for all that ails you, nor is it the only form of development that exists within your organization. Development is much broader than that. Development needs to live within and across your organization. We need to redefine learning to be a more inclusive enterprise. One that recognizes learning and development takes place both formally and informally, both on the job and in the classroom, through others and within oneself.
In order to truly develop your people, consider the context within which they operate. What are the tools that they need in order to survive, what are the tools they need in order to excel, and what are the tools they need to help others excel in role? Thinking about development with this lens allows you to put supporting structures into place as people move through their career journeys and progress along the leadership pipeline.
This type of construct allows business owners to flex development to meet the needs of their business and their employee base, And because of the flexibility inherent in the framework, this thinking also meets the needs of the current workforce in the workplace by caring for different learning modalities and methods. We know that people learn in different ways and in different places. There’s anecdotal evidence that Millennials prefer quick hit learning, whereas others may prefer the classroom environment. The point is that your development strategy needs to flex across these different needs.
We should be working hard to build development strategies that are tailored to the individual, with a focus on the end user as the customer. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever walk away from classroom session development, because the networking is a vital part to the experience. That said, we do need to be better at extending development across a multitude of platforms and ensure that it lives beyond the four walls.
The intent here is to reframe the notion of development by placing equal responsibility for development on the employee, the learning organization, talent management and leaders within the organization. It will take a coordinated effort by all in order to truly impact the extensible learning journey. It isn’t something that can be done in a silo, but if done correctly, it starts to get to the core of what corporate development is and should be, the enhancement of particular skills, knowledge and experiences to better prepare employees for what’s next in their careers while also aligning the needs of the individual to the business needs and strategies.
Development needs to be a never-ending journey that extends beyond the classroom into all that you do. The current workforce has come to expect that learning and development is core to any role or opportunity they take. It’s not enough to overwhelm people with money and benefits. Talent in the gig economy is looking for development; they’re looking for opportunities to expand their skill set and to test themselves. The beauty of redefining development to extend beyond the classroom is the flexibility within the model. Since development lives beyond the classroom, a core component of this new framework is working with the line managers and human resources to enable your people to expand their scope, to take risks and to learn new things through a variety of opportunities.
A word of caution, however, this isn’t a free for all. It’s an approach that requires commitment and partnership from a variety of resources; the employee, their manager, human resources, talent management and development. It’s a coordinated effort when putting the framework together, and it intentionally places the onus of development where it belongs; on the employee and the manager. Development and talent management are responsible for putting the framework, the support and the opportunities into place, but the reality is the employee needs to drive their own development. It’s up to them to take advantage of what’s offered.
That said, this is a major change initiative for most organizations. It takes commitment from all parties. Training will no longer be a panacea for all that ails you. It’s not seen as a destination, but rather as a journey. It never ends, it’s right there, squarely aligned to your business objectives and the expectation of all is that you own it; it’s a part of the fabric of the company. The change initiative required to stand this up is a slow and steady process. I’ve seen organizations start to move in this direction and there’s fear of the unknown.
If you want to learn how to engage your employees, keep them motivated and keep them growing, start to think differently about how you approach development. Look at who you’re hiring today, they hold different expectations and have different needs than who you were hiring five years ago. It’s time to start thinking differently about how you support their growth and development. It’s time to start trying new things, pushing the envelope, and driving business results in the gig economy through focused, real-time talent development.
Dr. Curtis Odom is the President of Stuck On Start Coaching, a boutique career coaching firm serving the needs of recent college graduates, and early career professionals. Stuck On Start Coaching provides customized client offerings under their CareerSOS Platform which is designed for anyone feeling “stuck on start” in their current job, and in need of a personal career strategy to go from college campus to corner office in today’s workplace. Dr. Odom is the author of four books, including his newest 2018 release, From Campus to Corner Office: How Co-Ops and Internship Will Help You Win In The Workplace. He has an built impressive career having spent 20 years as an internationally acclaimed business leader, entrepreneur, consultant, practitioner, researcher, best-selling author, executive coach, and professor at the Northeastern University D’Amore McKim School Of Business in Boston, Massachusetts.