The Great Resignation: Plugging the Leadership Skills Gap

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that 4.3 million workers left their jobs in August of 2021, while another report predicted that 55% of workers will seek new roles in the following 12 months. This historic trend has been coined “The Great Resignation” and it’s been going on for some time.

Resignations peaked in April 2021 but have remained high since then. At the end of July 2021, there were approximately 10 million available jobs in the United States. Over 4 million people had resigned their posts during that same month. The issue isn’t confined to the USA, either: one Microsoft report published early in 2021 found that 41% of workers across the globe were likely to consider leaving their jobs within the year.

The situation presents obvious challenges for HR in terms of recruitment. L&D might also have felt immediate effects in the form of increased demand for onboarding training. But another crucial area of your training program may also be in desperate need of some attention: leadership training.

The leadership dilemma

The Great Resignation is not just a trend happening for lower-level, rank-and-file employees: it’s also taking place for managers and professionals with all levels of experience. Those supervisory, management, and leadership roles still need to be filled, but in the midst of a labour shortage, organizations are resorting to promoting inexperienced junior staff into management roles they may not have been ready for otherwise.

Of course, there won’t be a wholesale collapse or failure of a company simply because employees don’t have a manager to report to. However, gaps in leadership or an inexperienced manager at the helm can lead to confusion over responsibilities and a lack of certainty over individual objectives. This can have a snowball effect of leading to even more resignations, as employees feel undervalued and demoralized.

When necessity is forcing the organization’s hand to rapidly promote junior or inexperienced employees to leadership roles, L&D is uniquely positioned to help by reimagining leadership training and rapidly upskilling new managers. This isn’t about a race to create as many managers as possible. Instead, it’s about developing channels to provide leadership training so that, when the opportunity arises, the right employee can step into a leadership role.

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Training remote leaders

Not only will the leadership training most likely be delivered in a remote setting, but the training itself should deliver actionable advice to those who find themselves leading teams in a remote environment for the foreseeable future.

Leading others who are not located in close proximity brings a host of new challenges. Simply leaning on project management tools alone is not what employees need from a manager. Employees today need managers with a well-developed sense of empathy, who can understand employee attitudes toward work, even if that understanding starts with assessing digital signals. This empathetic component is more in demand than ever in remote environments, where behaviors are more difficult to figure out and employees need to know that someone has their back (or at least, is aware of their existence).

Flexible, scalable, reproducible

With the need to train so many employees all at once at scale across the organization, L&D needs to figure out how to create leadership training that can be not only rapidly developed but also rapidly deployed across the organization.

However, rapid leadership training need not be a lightweight, superficial course with a one-size-fits-all feel. While the training should present skills that can be used in any team across the organization, it should be relatable and use examples from one particular team to highlight use in another.

Based on feedback, there can even be plans to develop a “Level II” -type leadership training.

Leadership training as an employee benefit

Employees are increasingly seeing full-time employment as a way to receive valuable training which they can take with them to their next position or help them carry out their larger career plans.

SHRM notes that If employees are not given opportunities to continually update their skills, they are more inclined to leave.

Leadership training might not be the first type of training employees think they need for their careers, or that the company would likely offer them. However, given the sudden gaps in the workforce, employees might be surprised that it is available.

Unique to the organization

Leadership training is nothing new. Leadership is elusive and holds different meanings in different situations.

However, L&D can “brand” the leadership training and make it unique to the organization. This adds value to the training, making it more interesting and appealing to employees resistant to taking such a course.

If your organization’s leadership training is in need of an overhaul, check out this eBook on upskilling, reskilling, and how to implement these programs effectively:

How Upskilling and Reskilling Programs Can Futureproof your Workforce

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The Great Resignation: Plugging the Leadership Skills Gap