For more than a decade, human resources professionals have struggled to satisfy two seemingly diametric challenges: develop leadership and engage individual contributors.
So far, most organizations’ response has been to spend about 80% of available learning resources on about 20% of the population. Train the leaders and they will have the tools they need to engage emerging professionals, or so the thinking goes.
However, that method doesn’t work. Endless research studies focused on the Millenials and Gen Z workforce have concluded that younger employees value training and development above all benefits, yet they believe that they’re underutilized and not being developed as leaders.
Statistics about managers don’t paint a rosier picture. In a survey of 500 managers in the United States, 44 percent said they frequently felt overwhelmed at work. The top two causes of stress for leaders are a lack of resources and time and developing others, according to the Center for Creative Leadership.
By placing the onus for development entirely on managers, we put more responsibility on their already full plates and deprive emerging professionals of the training they crave.
The problem seems relatively obvious, as does the solution: invest more money in training individual contributors. However, when we talk to HR professionals and large companies, there’s still hesitation to make this shift.
Here are three of the most common objections we’ve heard to investing more in training individual contributors and how to address them.
OBJECTION 1: “MY EXECUTIVE TEAM WANTS US TO DEVELOP OUR PEOPLE MANAGERS. PERIOD.”
The most effective way to address this objection is to focus on the pain of your managers who are already feeling the pressure. Then, educate your leaders with real data about the wants and needs of a new generation of talent. The goal is to shift your organization’s mindset from “everything stops with the leader” to “let’s help our leaders.” By investing in the individual contributors that your leaders manage, you are directly investing in your leaders.
OBJECTION 2: “WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO DEVELOP INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTORS BECAUSE THERE’S SO MANY OF THEM.”
Leadership is a small population. So, logically, you’re training fewer people and incurring less expense. However, what is the real cost of not developing the majority of your talent? One way to overcome this objection is to calculate the cost of turnover of individual contributors who could have become the company’s future leaders. If you could reduce attrition and increase engagement, what would that save the organization?
OBJECTION 3: “HOW DO WE KNOW IF THIS WILL EVEN WORK?”
To address this objection, suggest running a pilot program in your organization and measuring its results. Look at learning as an iterative effort, rather than a unilateral one. By trying different solutions and measuring them, your organization can see how effective individual contributor training can be to the largest population in your organization.
By training individual contributors, you can stop ignoring 80% of your employee population and start taking the pressure off your managers.