Here at The Red Thread, we’ve been involved in delivering powerful leadership development that makes a real difference for over 25 years so we’re always interested in anything that talks about how to make development even more effective. So, we were really interested to see the Learning and Performance Institute’s (LPI) data detailing the top five challenges collected from Heads of Learning who had registered for their conference. 
LPI have been collecting data around learning in the workplace since 1995, and since they began capturing this information in 2017, have analysed over 10,000 individual challenges. And the current list of challenges, at the time of writing, was: 
1. Building an Organisational Learning Culture. How do you foster a culture of knowledge and shared learning that supports the mission and goals of the organisation and embed the habit of learning at an individual, team and organisational level? 
2. Supporting Learning in a Hybrid Workforce. How do you give remote and/or hybrid workers the right learning experience compared with those who are in the office? 
3. Embedding Learning into the Flow of Work. How do make learning integral to work and not seen as an interruption? 
4. Improving Mental Health and Wellbeing. How can learning and development strengthen wellbeing and engagement? 
5. Measuring Roi and Impact. How do you show development provides value? 
Where to Start? 
As with so much else in organisations, we think these challenges start at the top. We are frequently being approached to run leadership development programmes that have at their heart an assumption that ‘we’re’ alright and everyone else is the problem! The ‘we’ here being the senior leadership team. 
Why do senior leaders think that because they are now senior leaders they don’t need to learn and develop? Some do have a coach, but we frequently find they rarely invest the time to develop themselves either individually or as a team – often saying they are too busy. And what message does that send? 
It’s ironic really, because when we speak to them 1:1, they very frequently share their challenges and issues with us and there are some clear areas where they do need support and development. We really do understand the time pressures on senior leaders can be intense, but by not creating the space to develop themselves they undermine all development activities in their organisation and also create a culture where being over worked and stressed is the norm and acceptable. 
Further, not taking that time prevents their teams from having the opportunities to step up and cover for them, and in doing so – to learn. In an environment where so many organisations are pursuing 70:20:10 learning strategies, blocking people from learning opportunities is counter-productive. 
In our work with senior teams, we have found that programmes of ongoing development with senior leaders are powerful catalysts for organisation wide changes in culture. Attitudes to learning change and the integration of learning into work becomes more common. People start to see the half days or days spent together learning by working on the challenges of the organisation, as integral to how they do business, how they improve and how they resolve issues. Inevitably as that works filters through, addressing their issues and challenges, it delivers benefits that everyone can see, feel and measure through the core organisation metrics. 
Getting your senior leadership team actively investing their time and energy visibly in developing themselves we think addresses 4 out of the 5 top challenges. 
Hybrid Teams 
Which leaves the challenge of development in a hybrid environment. As we found out through lockdown online development works very well. We designed and delivered a whole suite of online soft skills modules for a global client. Interestingly for the first time working on online created a sense of equality among colleagues who didn’t work at one of the major hubs. For the first time they felt an equal member of the team and not an afterthought. 
That said leadership development in a face-to-face environment has a very different dynamic and delivers different results from online development. And the day-to-day learning and coaching that colleagues can give each other on an ongoing basis is missing when individuals are working from home. 
As ever with a hybrid working create the right culture and experiment to start to resolve these issue. Good contracting about when people are in the offices allows for the gentle support and challenge that comes with coworking. Good use of online development where everyone is online allows for quality input. And software that allows real time coworking provides a third strand of development – no matter where people are. Crucially don’t provide development that people can’t access because of where they are – make it fit your needs and that means where people are based and work. 
And if need be – bring people together – it is worth it. If your senior team is distributed they’ll know this and if they are investing in themselves will know the benefit is worth the investment. 
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