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Why Leadership Development Should be on the Agenda for All HR Teams

It is often said, “People leave managers, not jobs”. In my personal and professional experience, this is often the case. After all, people tend to look to their leaders to lead, inspire, and motivate. When expectations are not met, disengagement creeps in. Managers can become the source of frustration, mistrust, resentment, or even anxiety. These are all factors that lead to poor performance and engagement, ultimately resulting in staff departures.

This is critical when we consider the prediction that the Great Resignation will hit Australian businesses in 2022. Now more than ever, employees want to be heard, feel valued, and achieve greater work life balance. Your people leaders play a key role in defending your attrition rates. Employees who feel valued, supported to do their best work, and provided with opportunities to learn and grow are less likely to leave.

Skilled managers support staff retention

Even if you are sceptical of the Great Resignation, investing in leadership development always reaps rewards. Research shows that profits double when you have great leaders in your organisation, due to increased engagement, retention, and performance.

It’s implied that people leaders need appropriate technical skills. In the current climate, strong “soft skills” have never been more important. Leaders need to move away from transaction task-based conversations to build deeper trust and rapport. The pandemic has resulted in record numbers of workers requesting flexibility, wanting to align their work with their passions, and achieving greater purpose and impact at work.

Review the questions below. Are your people leaders equipped to start these conversations and take appropriate action?

  • “What would make you leave?”
  • “What makes you stay?”
  • “What do you enjoy most about your role and/or working here?”
  • “Are there changes you would like to make to your role?”
  • “If you were the boss, what would you keep, stop, start doing?”

Leaders need to have the communication skills and emotional intelligence to effectively lead these conversations. This requires the ability to ask for feedback and actively listen. At times, staff want more action to be taken. This includes promotions, meaningful challenges, role re-design, or funding for learning and development opportunities.

Good leaders attract good talent

Good leaders are invaluable when it comes to employer branding and attraction. I approached a prospective candidate about an opportunity a few years ago. It was a senior role requiring specialist skills. Coincidentally, the candidate had seen the hiring manager speak at an industry event. They were so impressed by the presentation they’d reached out to connect via LinkedIn. As a result, when I made contact about the role, they jumped at it.

Leadership development should also focus on mental health and wellbeing

The last two years has tested the resilience of even the toughest leaders. It’s reported that improved mental wellbeing improves concentration and relationships while reducing anxiety. It can also increase happiness, self-esteem, and a sense of calm. Finding ways to increase the mental wellbeing of your leaders means they will be better placed to support staff. Otherwise, you’ll face another challenge of losing leaders due to burnout.

As clichéd as it sounds, if I’ve learnt anything over the last two years, it is to expect the unexpected. I can’t say with certainty what the rest of 2022 will bring, but I believe that investing in your leaders is key to safeguarding your organisation against whatever may come. Your people are your greatest assets. If you want to hold onto them and keep them happy and engaged, make sure leadership development is at the top of your HR agenda.

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