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  • Writer's picturePaul Andrews

New Leaders Not Given Adequate Support

New leaders are not given adequate learning and development according to new research that was commissioned by Winckworth Sherwood, a leading full-service UK law firm.

Key Findings:

  • 23% of employers do not provide any learning and development (L&D) to their new leaders

  • In organisations that do provide some form of learning & development to new leaders, 69% of HR leaders believe it is inadequate

  • Top constraints to providing L&D include time and financial constraints, and a lack of buy-in from the leaders themselves

  • 72% of all employees estimate that their employer could take more steps to improve their progression into leadership roles

Where organisations are providing some form of L&D, 69% of HR leaders believe it is inadequate. This is perhaps not surprising when only a quarter (25%) of employers were found to be regularly refreshing their leaders’ skills or providing L&D in key areas, such as leading change and digital skills. The research also found that only a third (34%) of organisations say they are providing their leaders training in equality, diversity and inclusion – something that is currently at the forefront of many corporate personnel strategies.

What’s more, concerns were raised that the 'soft skills' of leaders are not being adequately developed, with employees surveyed stating their leaders were better equipped to lead their organisation in their business skills than in their inter-personal skills and with their personality qualities.

While employees may find L&D opportunities lacking, HR leaders also pointed to a number of challenges impeding the successful implementation of L&D within organisations. Indeed, 84% of those surveyed cited barriers in providing L&D to leaders, including time and financial constraints, a lack of resources and a lack of buy-in from the leaders themselves. Many leaders reportedly do not follow the training and development in practice and resist or disengage from the process.

A closer look from employee perspective shows that there are also concerns when it comes to promoting employees into leadership roles in the first place. Almost three quarters (72%) of those surveyed estimate their employer could take more steps to support their progression into leadership roles. This is especially the case for those under 35, with some 83% believing their employer could do more to improve their career development, versus 56% of those aged 55 and above.

Employees highlighted several areas for improvement, including having access to transparent career progression frameworks, receiving honest feedback on performance and having the ability to future-proof their role and develop new skills to become more agile in the workplace.

Commissioned as part of a wider report on the state and importance of L&D, these findings are the result of a survey of 1,008 employees and 500 HR decision makers conducted by YouGov between 30 March and 4 April 2023.

Additional interviews were conducted with leading L&D experts, HR professionals and senior leaders, which highlighted the importance of developing a culture of continuous learning. When L&D is designed so that it fits with the organisation’s strategy and culture, it is not only a benefit to employees, but also to the wider organisation – helping support and drive the business’ success.

Report co-author Louise Lawrence, Partner in the Employment team at Winckworth Sherwood, said: “In the current employment landscape, where recruitment and retention are some of the top issues for employers and employees alike, the topic of L&D is increasingly front of mind. However, it continues to face a number of challenges within organisations."

“Leaders at all levels need to recognise the value of L&D and the benefits it brings not only to individuals but also to the wider organisation. With so many L&D and HR professionals facing barriers to providing L&D, and a significant number of organisations not providing any at all, it is time to fundamentally review the role and importance of L&D within organisations."

“For leaders to truly develop, there needs to be a culture of continuous learning throughout the organisation."

"Rather than learning being purely event based, it needs to be part of a bigger development experience such as learning through the flow of work. We would encourage employers to take a close look at their existing L&D offering and how it can be improved to have meaningful leadership development.”

Report co-author, Will Clift, Senior Associate at Winckworth Sherwood, added: “The ability to lead does not come naturally to everyone and, in many cases, takes time and practice. This is why employers need to make sure they are providing adequate and effective L&D opportunities to help leaders feel equipped and supported in their role.

“Even if an individual has previous leadership experience or a personal interest in developing such skills, it is essential that the correct support is put in place so that they understand what is required of them to effectively lead in their particular organisation."

“From better business performance to improving organisational culture and employees’ wellbeing, there are a multitude of benefits to implementing L&D programmes. We hope the findings from this report provide valuable insights which will help organisations deliver more effective L&D for leaders, and better development opportunities for more junior staff.”

Winckworth Sherwood publishes annual research on the major topics affecting employers and employees in the UK. This year’s Leadership Development report follows previous publications covering equality, diversity and inclusion, ethical leadership and flexible working.

Check out the full report and findings here

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