Four Tips for a Successful L&D Program


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Countless hours go into creating a successful leader, and an organization could sink or swim depending on how well leaders perform. If leaders don’t receive encouragement or aren’t nurtured correctly when they enter their career ladder, they may be set up for failure. That’s why creating a successful leadership development program is imperative for company-wide success.

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, employees at every level of an organization benefit from having a strong leadership development plan in place. With the rollercoaster-like talent market that employers have faced the past few years and a whole new generation of graduates entering the workforce, now is the perfect time to build a successful learning and development (L&D) program that will cultivate leaders and their skills for years to come. But how does one get started, and where should HR professionals devote their time when building a successful L&D program? Below are four steps HR departments can take to start in the right direction.

Ask questions, and then ask some more

When most people are hired or moved to a new role, they are often told to ask as many questions as possible. That idea also applies when rebuilding or formulating a new L&D plan. When employees or leaders ask more questions, they gain a greater overall understanding of a new process. One way to get started is to create a list of questions to ask that could potentially lead to a deeper conversation with executive leadership. A few questions to jumpstart your list may include the following.

  • What are a few examples of opportunities leadership missed in prior role transitions?
  • Are there any foreseeable company changes coming down the pipeline that could cause leadership mishaps?
  • When someone in leadership decides to leave or retire, what are some characteristics we would want to be passed down? What characteristics do we not want to be passed down?

When starting an L&D plan or rebuilding an existing one, it’s better to ask more questions than needed than not asking enough. Keep in mind that company roles are fluid and can change on a dime. Those who put more time and preparation into the plan’s foundation will be better prepared for success down the road.

Cultivate company leaders from the inside

Hiring prospective candidates for a leadership position can be stressful. There is no foolproof way to understand their leadership style until after the ink on their offer letter has dried. Although hiring leaders from outside the organization can lead to powerful new insights, leaders promoted from within the company are more likely to reach their full potential and hit their stride quicker. This is because employees who have been with the company for an extended period know the nuances of organizational leadership. They’ve also likely developed a keen sense of what works for the company versus what may need to be changed. This internal knowledge, along with an understanding of the current technology the organization has in place, gives the current employees a head start.

That said, leaders don’t just pop up out of nowhere. Leaders are developed in a multitude of ways. One way a company can play a part in the next great leader’s development is by ensuring their company’s L&D program is up to date and can put employees on the right track the moment they start their career at the company.

Current leaders should encourage their employees to step into leadership positions by letting team members conduct a project or even shadowing what could be their next role. This can ensure that the employee is set up for success and feels confident enough to meet and exceed expectations. And if they miss the mark, the company can find a better fit for them within the organization by working with the HR department.

Think Outside the Box with Promotions

Leaders don’t just pop out of the woodwork when there’s a position to fill — they are developed over time. While it may seem easy to pick the most outgoing person to hold the title of leader, it’s not always the right choice. Current leaders, as well as the HR department, need to keep an open mind when it comes to filling executive positions. And that’s where a good L&D program can come into play.

L&D programs are meant to give all employees the same baseline for job growth. When implemented correctly, L&D initiatives can help ensure an employee is being chosen for their next role due to their experience and hard work as opposed to being, for example, a particularly outgoing individual with fewer qualifications. L&D plans also allow new leaders the opportunity to make small mistakes as they grow into their position without hindering the whole company as a result.

Evaluate, then Evaluate again

It should come as no surprise that the final step in developing or rebuilding a company’s L&D program is through a thorough evaluation. Evaluating the L&D program and acting upon feedback from those who are involved will help verify the program is in a constant state of improvement. Across all departments, leaders must also be on the same page regarding how employees are evaluated. Every leader should give both positive and negative feedback on the L&D program once it is rebuilt or started.

Every company’s L&D program will be different in various ways, and confirming it is working for your company establishes a strong next generation of leaders at your organization. Organizational leaders need to ask enough questions to understand what is needed for a successful L&D program, focus on funneling leaders from their current employees, push other leaders to think outside of the box when hiring, and continuously evaluate their L&D program for positive and meaningful results.

Brian Anders
Brian Anders joined WorkSmart Systems in 2019 as director of human resources and has extensive experience in all aspects of HR within the service industry. His HR acumen includes employee relations, organizational training and development, project and talent management, payroll and recruitment. Brian is a graduate of Indiana University, and is SHRM-CP Certified with National SHRM and the Indiana State SHRM Chapter membership.


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