5 Ways E-Learning Can Improve Your Leadership Development Program

Why Leadership Development is Important
Leadership development is a high priority and increasing as an overall percentage of training delivered in many organizations because of several positive business benefits:

  • Financial return.
  • Employee satisfaction and retention.
  • Building bench strength.
  • Strategic and competitive advantage.
  • Enhanced productivity and faster resolution of problems.
  • Continuous innovation.
  • Organizational agility.

Leaders drive performance, and the higher the leader and the broader the scope of his or her responsibility, the greater the impact that the individual can have on an organization. So while it may difficult to measure exactly now much leadership development programs contribute to something like financial return, it is generally accepted that good leaders and managers produce higher performing teams that produce better results.

Demographic shifts are also forcing companies to focus on their leadership development efforts. With almost 80 million baby boomers approaching retirement in the next decade, there will be significant impact on pipeline of available leadership talent, and the cost of recruiting and retaining competent managers is going to increase.

E-Learning Can Improve Leadership Development Programs
While e-learning is not a complete solution when it comes to leadership development, it can be used to increase its effectiveness in several important ways:

Increased Reach
Traditionally, leadership training has been confined to employees who can attend a classroom event. This makes it difficult and/or expensive to reach geographically dispersed employees. The increasingly global and mobile nature of today’s workforce means that many employees may be left out of traditional classroom-based leadership training programs.

But technology-based learning content can provide basic soft skills training and information to any learner with an Internet connection. E-learning can effectively eliminate the barriers of time and geography.

Consistency
Ensuring a consistent approach to leadership often means instituting a talent management process based on a system of competencies that align with specific company objectives. If leadership competencies are identified for all levels and job roles, there can be a systematic process for assessing employees and recommending training interventions based on job role and level. Competency management gives organizations better visibility into their leadership strengths and weaknesses, and aids in long-term planning.

Speed & Efficiency
While leadership training must include “high touch” activities to be effective, e-learning can often be used to reach the training goal quicker and at a lower cost. There are numerous models for blended learning ranging from the very simple to complex. One of the most common is to use e-learning as a pre-requisite to classroom training. This can shorten the overall time needed for employees to complete training. It also ensures that learners arrive at the training event with a common understanding and baseline of knowledge, ready to take advantage of the unique benefits of being with other students and a live instructor.

E-Learning also shortens the amount of time that employees are physically away from their jobs. Online learning also offers the opportunity for learners to take classes when it is most convenient for them, and to progress as quickly or slowly as necessary.

Skills can also be assessed online prior to training, which may allow some learners to test-out of certain parts of training. Shortening time away from the job can be an especially important benefit in leadership training, which often involves key employees with significant responsibilities.

Reinforcement Over Time
Training impact tends to fade over time. But research shows that when learning is reinforced before and after the training event, the positive effects are greater and last longer. Managers can use e-learning to reinforce key points of training, thereby taking leadership development from a series of disconnected events to more of a continuous development process.

Support Collaboration & Relationship Building

Managing global teams is a reality in today’s workplace, and also one of the greatest challenges managers face. Technology such as the virtual classroom, blogs, wikis and social networks are being used to support collaboration for geographically dispersed teams. “Blended” does not have to imply “classroom.” Many of today’s leadership programs are exclusively conducted virtually. In this format, participants take online courses that are augmented with online collaboration sessions, conference calls or virtual collaboration exercises.

Christopher Wofford is Digital Media Producer and host of WebSeries at eCornell.
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