How to Develop Leaders in Middle Skills Professions

Posted by Emma Rose Gallimore on October 30, 2019

Imagine you have an open position for a management role in your business. Which would you rather do? Create a job post, sort through resumes, interview candidates, and eventually hire someone who might hopefully be the right fit, or promote a proven employee who already understands your business and your team?

When you cultivate leadership skills and professional abilities in middle skills workers, you build a robust talent pipeline that saves you time, money and uncertainty when new positions become available. Instead of looking outside the company for managers and supervisors, you can hire from within. Employees will recognize the potential for growth which can enhance overall employee satisfaction and loyalty.

In short, training middle skills employees in leadership and other professional skills is a winning strategy for your business.

Why hire from within

The middle skills gap is presenting real challenges for employers of all types. One short-term strategy for filling the skills gap is to hire enthusiastic but inexperienced candidates who are willing to learn. Some businesses simply train these candidates to do the job they were hired for. Once the candidate has the skills to do the job for which he was hired, training stops.

This strategy addresses the immediate talent gap, but it's shortsighted. Meanwhile, smart companies provide continuous training to prepare employees for increasingly responsible positions.

Middle skills employees need the skills that will make them valuable contributors in the short run and successful leaders in the long run. In this way, you can build a talent pipeline that feeds your workforce needs for years and even decades to come.

Although you can't know exactly what your business will need in three, five, or ten years, some turnover is unavoidable. Some managers will retire, others will move on to other opportunities, a few may laterally transfer to other business lines. Do you really want to start from scratch when the inevitable happens?

Benefits of leadership training

When you hire a new employee, you start by training them for their new roles. You make sure they have the technical and soft skills they need to meet the daily demands of their jobs. But training shouldn't stop when they've acquired those skills. Instead you should take the long view. What's the next step in their careers? What can you do to prepare them for those roles?

Leadership training brings several benefits for each employee and for the business as a whole, including:

  1. Helping you identify high potential employees. Leadership training helps you spot those employees who are able and willing to take on leadership roles. By tracking employee performance in training scenarios and courses you can identify those who perform well and have an enthusiasm for leadership. Pay attention to more than their assessment scores. Notice enthusiasm and improvement over time.
  2. Improving team cohesion. Many of the skills that make someone a good leader also make them valuable team members. Skills like communication, problem solving, and teamwork can improve performance at all levels of your organization.
  3. Shortening time to fill for open positions. The average time to fill across all industries in the United States is 43 days. Imagine the loss of productivity that can result from a job standing vacant for a month and a half. That number can be higher or lower depending on the industry. Healthcare in the United States has a shorter average time to fill of 29 days while IT averages 50. If all the members of your team have leadership skills and you've been cultivating those with the most promise, you may have a near seamless transition from the previous manager to your newly promoted team member.

How to develop leaders

Take a focused approach to leadership training. It's not enough to just provide employees with learning opportunities that build leadership skills.

Step one: Create development pathways for all employees

Make sure every employee understands their paths to advancement. Discussions about the employees ambitions, goals and expectations should start during the hiring process. Some employees may not be looking for a leadership role and that's okay. Make employee development and leadership training a part of your regular performance review process. Don't forget to encourage employees to take advantage of the training you've offered.

Step two: provide training opportunities

Don't assume that every certificate or degree program will give your employees the skills they need to become leaders. Look for programs that specifically focus on supervisory and management roles. And remember, more education isn't always better. The value is in education that is targeted enough to build leadership skills and flexible enough for working learners.

Mentoring and apprenticeship programs can help employees build skills while on the job. Not only will they learn from interactive online modules, they'll also gain first-hand experience under the mentorship of more senior employees.

For an even more focused approach, consider skills playlists. These short, online courses are delivered in pre-packaged playlists or can be customized to meet specific upskilling needs. They combine competency-based curricula with career coaching and advanced analytics.

Step three: Track results

Monitor employees to identify the ones who are taking advantage of leadership training. With the help of your training partner, you can track results and spot those employees who have the right combination of enthusiasm and skills to become great leaders.

Contact a Penn Foster training specialist today to start developing your leaders of the future.