The enterprise education industry has hundreds, perhaps thousands of answers to all manner of learning and development questions. E-learning and online learning provide point-of-contact information in a cost-effective and easy-to-update format. Classroom instruction provides the face-to-face interaction necessary to cement more complex ideas and offers a safe environment in which to practice and network with co-workers to share best practices. But which solutions and what level of skill are needed to develop tomorrow’s leaders?
Michael DiGiovanni, president of Celemi Inc., which creates learning programs for business leaders in Fortune 500 companies, has pinpointed several key knowledge gaps that continually create problems for mid- to upper-level managers. Performance management is one such area. Rather than focusing on organizing their people, company leaders must begin organizing to produce superior business results. Recruiting and retaining the right kinds of people to avoid a potential loss of knowledge after a thorough and costly on-boarding or development process are both important to avoid damaging customer relationships. When companies fail to succeed in these fundamental areas of workforce performance management, DiGiovanni said the effects are felt both outside and within the organization.
“Organizations spend a lot of time and energy recruiting, especially in knowledge-based companies. When employees leave your organization, they take all that knowledge with them, and it’s very difficult to replace,” DiGiovanni said. “You rely on their creativity and ability to solve problems using knowledge they’ve gained over time. If you’re not doing a good job retaining those people, you tend to lose that knowledge, which has a negative impact on your ability to perform in the marketplace.”
Executives also find themselves challenged to learn how to run their organizations cross-functionally—collaborating horizontally across functions versus operating in a silo mentality. Leaders should think across the whole company and operate from a broad, holistic point of view that encourages enterprise-wide sharing of information and ideas. They also should manage appropriately so that the effects trickle down over the entire company in a positive way. This method of conducting business is preferable and has more impact than viewing challenges from a business unit perspective, and connects to another key skill area of concern to new leaders: the ability to implement strategy.
“The things that you do day in and day out as managers—how well you work with your customers, how well you work in the marketplace, how you work internally—each of those things needs to be in concert so that everything individuals are doing is in line with the overall strategy of the company,” DiGiovanni explained. “Part of the leader’s job is to get everybody working on the team to operate in that same way. They need to do and act themselves and then rally the support of those working in their business units to take the right kind of actions on a daily basis.”
Financial acumen and business planning skills might seem like a given in the skill set for emerging leaders, but these capabilities must go beyond general knowledge and awareness. “It’s not that CLOs and upper-level management don’t know how to read the P&L statements—they just need to know how to use that information to drive specific objectives,” DiGiovanni said. “A lot of organizations are using a variety of financial metrics to measure the performance of the organization. It’s being able to go into those financial statements, extrapolate those results and then, as they go forward, make decisions using that information. It’s not looking at the statements, saying, ‘Did we make the right kinds of decisions?’ It’s using the P&L and the financial statement as a management tool to drive the business.
“All the pieces fit together,” he added. “When I’m in a particular business, I may be a business unit in an organization, corporation or a particular functional area, it’s understanding how the things I do in my area link to other parts of the company and how all of that needs to be in concert when we’re planning our business and trying to be effective. It’s linking very specific actions to a bigger picture and ensuring that those actions have the business results that we’re looking for.”