Leadership Development

The top 5 leadership skills to develop in your people

In the post-pandemic context, developing leadership skills has become more crucial than ever. On-site interactions are becoming less frequent, employees’ mental health and well-being have come to the fore, these, combined with the talent shortage mean employers and leaders must do everything they can to create a supportive environment. A study by Harvard Business Review found that 59% of hiring managers and 89% of executives surveyed reported having difficulty recruiting candidates with the requisite soft skills. Other research suggests that the return on investment for soft skills training is as high as 250%. 

Here are the five most important leadership skills, as well as tips for developing them in a hybrid working environment. 

1. Communication

Effective written and verbal communication is key to any successful workforce, especially with today’s growing reliance on technology and virtual work. Among a myriad of benefits, leaders with good communication skills are able to increase workplace efficiency, improve motivation, advance their problem-solving capabilities, and increase retention rates. 

While there are many training programs that focus on formal communication skills, it’s just as important to cultivate leaders’ ability to communicate informally. The one-on-one conversations with direct reports that happen every day can make a significant difference in overall employee satisfaction and retention. Blueline helped leaders at a Fortune 150 pharmaceutical company to have effective career coaching discussions with their direct reports, ensuring that everybody in the organization experienced an equitable and empowering career coaching process. Leaders needed to be able to navigate difficult conversations and get the right people in the leadership pipeline while maintaining or regaining the trust of their team members. 

To hone their communication skills, we used Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM  digital design and delivery platform to develop an immersive, scenario-based simulation to help supervisors develop the skills and confidence necessary for effective development planning conversations with employees. The synchronous, team-based design delivered a powerful experience and equipped leaders to have constructive discussions with their teams. 

2. Teamwork

Good teamwork in the workplace leads to higher employee morale, greater workforce efficiency and productivity, increased innovation, improved employee retention, and many other benefits. Leaders who are able to work with others help their teams generate positive results. 

ExperienceBUILDER uses a team-based learning methodology. In every ExperienceBUILDER simulation, teams have a predictable, stable environment to collaborate to solve real-world problems. Learners must engage in deep discussions and vigorous debate to make collective decisions that allow them to move forward. This team-driven discovery learning model helps leaders develop critical teamwork skills they can apply to their everyday interactions. Team-based learning has the benefit of building teamwork skills on top of nearly any type of other learning objective.

3. Empathy

In a competitive talent market, training for empathy has become a top priority for organizations looking for ways to retain and attract quality talent. A Center for Creative Leadership study found that empathetic leaders are “viewed as better performers in their jobs by their bosses,” and empathy training has been proven to drive significant business results. When employees feel as though they are seen, understood, and valued, they are more likely to feel motivated, inspired, and fulfilled in their roles. 

The good news is that empathy can be taught effectively if approached in a way that invites robust dialog and enables learners to see past their existing beliefs. ExperienceBUILDER simulations foster empathy using an immersive, discovery-based approach: simulations put learners into situations where there is no clear right or wrong answer, and teams collaborate to find a solution. This experience can help guide individuals into meaningful conversations, solve complex interpersonal situations, and uncover biases and judgment—all key to building greater empathy. 

4. Self-awareness

Self-awareness and self-management provide the critical bedrock for other leadership skills. Being self-aware helps leaders become more sensitive to themselves and others, allowing them to effectively read a room and advocate for their employees’ wants and needs—all while accelerating their personal career goals. 

The key to establishing (and cementing) better self-awareness is learning about it AND putting it into practice. In real life, the best way to exercise self-awareness is through observations and reflections, looking for patterns, insights, and lessons that can be applied in similar future experiences. 

From a business perspective, developing self-awareness can be a bit of a challenge. How do we help people develop their self-awareness without them having to learn from experiences on the fly? Is there a way to safely practice their self-awareness (and other soft skills) rather than in a critical team meeting or during a call with a vital customer? We build self-awareness through well-designed, realistic simulation experiences that provide opportunities to practice, observe, and reflect. Training simulations create collaborative environments that provide opportunities for rich observations and reflection, helping learners to build awareness in a safe environment. 

5. Adaptability 

The modern world of work is characterized by a constant state of flux and transition. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, and the impact of the pandemic highlighted just how adaptable businesses and their leaders need to be. Adaptable leaders use change to expand their skill sets and abilities and even carve out a competitive advantage. 

Effective training for greater adaptability involves developing an immersive experience that builds strategic thinking skills and decision-making in a competitive and dynamic environment. A well-designed simulation helps learners connect to the right choices and outcomes using a set of custom scoring metrics and a live leaderboard. Crucially, this specific, predictable feedback enables learners to understand the impact of their decisions, fail forward, learn from their mistakes, and adapt. When there are no obvious right or wrong answers, teams must discuss the pros and cons of each choice and identify the best way to move forward.

Build critical leadership skills with Blueline

These five leadership skills are essential in building today’s dynamic workforce, and the best way to develop them in training is through realistic, interactive, and true-to-life immersive learning experiences. If your organization hasn’t yet tapped into the power of people skills training for leadership and professional development, then now is a great time to do so. Get in touch with the team to schedule a free consultation. 

5 strategies to upskill your workforce in 2022

As society, culture, and technology evolve, working professionals need to adapt, reskill, and upskill to remain relevant and keep up with current workplace trends. A 2021 report from Gartner found that 58% of the workforce will need new skills to do their current jobs successfully. This isn’t a surprise. As far back as 2016, the World Economic Forum estimated that 65% of children entering primary school will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.

Driven by technological advances, business model changes from the pandemic, and new attitudes towards work, many organizations now need to identify and train for skill gaps within their current workforces. To address this need, companies are pursuing ambitious talent agendas that involve reskilling and upskilling existing talent to support the future organization. 

In addition, a lack of opportunities for advancement was one of the top reasons Americans quit their jobs last year, and 65% of workers refer to employer-provided upskilling when evaluating a potential new job. With an increase in employees seeking development opportunities, effective learning programs have become a key differentiator in a competitive talent market. 

What is upskilling?

Upskilling employees means bringing the skills and expertise of your current employees up to date with emerging trends and requirements. 

Benefits of upskilling employees

  • Employee retention: Upskilling your employees can make them feel empowered and encouraged, which can help to discourage turnover.
  • Employee engagement: When employees learn more skills, they’re likely to be motivated to put them into practice and engage with their work.  
  • Employee satisfaction: The opportunity to upskill can lead to higher employee fulfillment and improved performance.
  • Fill skill gaps from within: It’s more cost-effective to invest in your current employees’ skills than to recruit new employees.
  • Attract new talent: Become an attractive employer by offering ongoing opportunities for employee development. 
  • Build a competitive advantage: Strengthen your company’s position in the market by upskilling employees with relevant skills. 

With these benefits in mind, here are 5 strategies to upskill your workforce in 2022:

1. Emphasize skills training in onboarding programs 

New workers may come into the organization with skill gaps, so it’s important to focus on a formal onboarding program that becomes a competitive advantage. Blueline delivered an award-winning, simulation-based onboarding experience at the legendary consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. The Booz Allen employee onboarding program took the form of a branded, phased, 12-month series of events designed to help new hires learn new skills, engage with the organization, feel comfortable joining their teams, and internalize the firm’s culture and core values.

Watch this video to learn more about the Booz Allen approach to comprehensive employee onboarding. 

2. Identify upskilling needs

Most employees can benefit from some form of upskilling, but to see the highest return on your investment, you’ll need to identify priority areas and skills based on your company’s goals and vision, as well as your employees’ personal growth objectives. Blueline’s Voice of the Business process mines insights from inside the business, allowing you to gain a clear picture of where employees feel under-skilled and how you can best support them. 

3. Train for people leadership skills 

Remember that upskilling doesn’t only involve learning new technical or process-based skills. In the new hybrid workplace, specialized interpersonal skills are in high demand. The pandemic also brought employees’ mental wellbeing to the forefront, which means that training for empathy has taken on a new level of meaning and priority. People skills like empathy, communication, teamwork, and problem-solving apply to almost any job, so it’s important to equip leaders and individual contributors with the people skills they need to succeed in the workforce. 

4. Make learning enjoyable 

There’s a proven link between employee engagement and knowledge retention, which is why any upskilling program should be an enjoyable experience for the learner. This is where good learning design comes into play. Instead of subjecting learners to passively observing PowerPoint-based presentations, learning experiences should be immersive and engaging. Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM digital design and delivery platform provides an interactive environment for teams of learners to collaborate and engage in discovery-learning experiences that enhance skill acquisition and application. 

5. Prioritize hybrid learning for the hybrid workforce

Today’s workforce has become increasingly geographically dispersed, with plenty of organizations announcing a switch to a permanent hybrid or remote model. When it comes to delivering upskilling training, organizations need to cater fairly to those who are unable or prefer not to be on-site. To avoid proximity bias and promote inclusivity, it’s essential to use online and hybrid learning platforms that transcend delivery mode for your upskilling training. 

An example of an upskilling strategy in action 

One of our clients was faced with the challenge of having very few people who could access, manipulate, and analyze all of the data owned by the organization. We partnered with the company to elevate its organizational performance and distinguish itself from the competition by democratizing the use of data at all levels. This involved upskilling all employees by advancing their data skills so that they would be empowered to use data to their advantage. 

To upskill the workforce with data analytics skills, we created several simulations that modeled the data sets and questions employees should be able to access and answer independently. Designed and delivered through Blueline’s ExperienceBUILDERTM digital platform, each simulation was made up of progressively more challenging scenarios carefully crafted to develop employees’ skills and confidence to use data and analytics to respond to business questions. 

Change is the only constant 

To remain competitive in this fast-paced marketplace, your organization needs to be equipped to adapt to rapid change. Upskilling is essential amid the modern business world’s ever-changing processes, technologies, and organizational goals. The pressure to constantly learn new skills can be overwhelming for both employer and employee, which is why organizations choose to partner with Blueline. Contact us to learn more about how we can create and implement an upskilling program to create a competitive advantage for your business.  

Redefining career development in 2022

In the new world of work, many professionals feel conflicted or confused when it comes to growth, their futures, and what career development really means. Many motivated professionals have taken career development into their own hands by hopping from job to job in order to gain skills and experience, and many have been compensated handsomely for their efforts. There’s a distinct disconnect between the traditional picture of career success (defined by position and promotions) and today’s morphing, expanding definition of careers and career development. 

We’ve seen this uncertainty play out through the Great Resignation and the Great Reshuffle, leaving employers wondering how to deal with employee dissatisfaction and hold on to their workforces. What we know now is that promotions and positions aren’t the entirety of career development. Instead, it’s time for a mindset shift in how we evaluate career development and the impact it can have on employee satisfaction.

Why the change? 

Even before the pandemic, organizations were experiencing significant flux in their workforces. Then, COVID came, and employees began to reconsider their relationships with work in parallel with other societal and paradigm shifts. The following is a brief summary of some of the common topics in professional circles over the past couple of years:

  • Employees of younger generations may not identify personally with their work or specific roles.
  • The experience economy, in which experiences drive greater happiness than objects, has been seeping into the workplace.
  • Employees want jobs that do more than just pay the bills.
  • Promotions are not as plentiful with increasingly linear org charts.
  • The ability for employees to work remotely has widened the talent pool.
  • A significant portion of the workforce is comprised of contractors and contingency workers.
  • The gig economy is changing employee expectations and behavior.
  • Employees expect, and even demand, more choice and flexibility.

Given these profound changes, a new definition and approach is needed for career development satisfaction and success. The good news is that many of the firms successfully recruiting talent in today’s workplace offer a wide range of opportunities beyond, between, and beside promotions and role changes. With the right training tools, employees can reskill, upskill, and take on new challenges that contribute to their career development and fulfillment. And it’s not only the employee that stands to gain—World Economic Forum research shows that wide-scale investment in reskilling and upskilling has the potential to boost GDP by $6.5 trillion by 2030. 

L&D can work closely with HR in the career development space

Where the promotions process has typically been managed by HR, the L&D function now has an important role to play in facilitating career development by providing tools for employees to learn on the job and chart their own career paths. Ongoing education can help employees think about their own careers and provide expansive learning opportunities that increase their skills and scope. Technology-based learning experiences can be used to train leaders to provide career coaching and counseling—which is what Blueline did for one well-known global company. 

The company’s goal was to attract, develop, and retain top talent by ensuring they were introducing career planning processes and tools that would maximize the right opportunities for the individual and the business—fairly, consistently, and transparently. The company needed help figuring out how to keep people motivated, fully engaged, and growing as they progressed in their careers through an equitable and empowering assessment and coaching process.

To do this, the company implemented technology that assessed individual employee motivations and likelihood of success as a leader. Everyone in the organization who wanted to be considered for leadership had the opportunity to be evaluated. But what if the assessment determined that an individual didn’t have the aptitude or for other reasons wasn’t eligible? What if people chose not to take the assessment, even if the company wanted them to? Blueline needed to help leaders navigate tricky conversations and ensure the right people were filling the leadership pipeline. 

Our solution was to develop an immersive, scenario-based simulation to help supervisors develop the skills and confidence necessary for effective pre-and post- talent assessment development planning conversations with employees. Equipping supervisors with these skills helped them to reframe career development beyond outdated expectations and better align with today’s dynamic, employee-centric environment. 

Embracing alternative avenues for development 

If organizations continue to equate career development with promotions, they’ll only perpetuate the expectation that growing means going somewhere—which includes going to another company! On the other hand, by reframing career coaching conversations in the context of learning and development, organizations can adopt a more inclusive and fulfilling approach that helps every employee plan for careers that maximize individual engagement and satisfaction. 

Is your organization adopting an integrated, transparent approach to career planning, performance management, compensation, and skill development? We can help.  

Contact the learning experts at Blueline Simulations. 

Addressing Talent Challenges Through a Comprehensive Approach

Transform to Retain: Addressing today’s talent challenges through a comprehensive approach to career planning, performance management, compensation, and skill development

Over the last year, the Great Resignation has left companies reeling from talent challenges, with 4.3 million employees leaving their jobs in January of 2022. The talent market has become wildly competitive, so how do organizations of today attract, engage, and retain valuable employees? 

Employers are all too familiar with the costs of replacing an employee. Along with the cost of recruiting and training new employees, high workforce turnover also harms workforce morale, and the customer experience. On the other hand, more and more employers are realizing that an engaged, satisfied workforce presents a significant competitive advantage. Engaged and committed employers are not only less likely to leave, but they also perform better, are more satisfied in their roles, and are more productive.

The organizations currently succeeding in this area have a key common trait: an integrated, transparent approach to career planning, performance management, compensation, and skill development.  

Why are employees leaving? 

A new Pew Research Center survey identified the top reasons why Americans quit their jobs last year: 

  1. Low pay (63%)
  2. No opportunities for advancement (63%)
  3. Feeling disrespected at work (57%)

It’s interesting to note that a lack of opportunities for advancement is weighted equally with low pay. Although remuneration is important, it’s only one aspect of the employee experience. Those who quit their jobs in 2021 and are now employed elsewhere have seen some improvement in their current work situation compared with their previous jobs: 

  • Earning more money (56%)
  • More opportunities for advancement (53%)
  • An easier time balancing work and family responsibilities (53%)
  • More flexibility with regards to work hours (50%)

What these numbers show us is that employees are not assets or resources—they are human beings. They want more than a high salary. They want a company culture that supports them, and a career with purpose and prospects. That’s why the ideal employee experience focuses on the whole individual: mental and physical health, along with aspirations for professional growth and development. 

A recent Gallup study found that more than half of workers in the U.S want to upgrade their skills, and 65% of workers refer to employer-provided upskilling when evaluating a potential new job. At all levels of the organization, training and employee engagement go hand in hand, and engagement is closely linked to retention. 

Business transformation initiatives simply can’t afford to fail 

In today’s competitive talent landscape, business transformation needs to take a people-centered approach to create sustainable change, which requires buy-in from employees at all levels. Some are even referring to this time in our history as the People Revolution. Business leaders need to adopt changes that avoid employee burnout, improve employee engagement, and minimize turnover. Failure to do so could be disastrous in organizations dealing with a toxic work culture.

It’s no small task for leaders to engage their teams and gain employee buy-in to the transformation effort. Further, organizations undergoing a transformation will frequently introduce new leader attributes or behaviors, some of which require significant adjustments to past behaviors. Leaders require a clear understanding of the things they’re accountable for, as well as the skills they need to develop in themselves and their teams. Training can offer strong support and help leaders feel confident in this process, and also help to cultivate a learning culture where employees at all levels have a growth-oriented mindset.

Create growth opportunities at all levels of the organization

As studies (and our own experience) suggest, most employees want to grow and evolve along their career paths, opening opportunities to both earn more and expand their skill sets. Blueline’s training and communication tools can facilitate your organization’s transformation to an integrated, transparent approach to career planning, performance management, compensation, and skill development. We can help your organization to become a preferred employer by investing in your people, making growth part of the culture, and enhancing employee engagement. 

Contact us to schedule a consultation to learn more about our learning solutions, and ways to overcome talent challanges.

5 Ways to Effectively Train a Hybrid Workforce

The evolution to a hybrid workplace—where team members work on-site or off based on wide ranging organizational guidelines—was still just being tested by forward thinking companies when the global pandemic made it a necessity. Now, organizations and employees around the world are realizing the benefits of hybrid work, such as employee wellness and increased productivity. But what happens to activities that required employees to be on-site, such as synchronous employee training? 

The views of hybrid work advocates have been validated by various studies, such as Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work 2021 report, which found that remote and hybrid employees stayed in their jobs longer and were 22% happier than workers in an on-site office environment. Another study from Ergotron sampled 1,000 previously full-time workers who had become more acclimated to hybrid and remote office environments since the onset of Covid-19. The study found that 88% of employees agreed that the flexibility to work from home or the office had increased their job satisfaction, with 56% of employees citing mental health improvements, better work-life balance and more physical activity. 

A hybrid workplace is an increasingly valuable tool for businesses, and its success will require a lot more than the right tech. Training for hybrid teams needs to take an approach that inspires remote team members to show they are fully engaged with their cameras and mics on, by choice. That’s why HR and management teams need to adopt new learning strategies, putting the right tactics in play so that all employees—whether on-site, remote, or both—can have high-quality learning experiences, and equal opportunities for career development. Read on for five top tips for training today’s hybrid workforce. 

5 ways to effectively train a hybrid workforce 

1. Reduce or eliminate on-site training events

Yes, this is a controversial statement. However, consider that one of the key benefits of the hybrid workforce is the ability to draw talent from a global pool. As workforces become increasingly more dispersed geographically, producing on-site training events becomes more burdensome than ever. Organizations need to cater fairly to those who are unable to be on-site. To avoid proximity bias and promote inclusivity, it’s advisable to go all-in by transitioning most or all of your training to online and hybrid learning platforms. Doing so means staying true to the promise of a flexible workplace where people can choose to work and learn from anywhere.

2. Incorporate empathy training

Remote and hybrid work environments have enhanced the need for emotionally intelligent employees that show empathy toward one another. Developing empathy helps to improve interactions across the entire organization, and is especially important in a hybrid workplace model where on-site interactions are becoming less frequent. Having a greater understanding of people goes a long way in harmonizing the team, and increasing productivity and effectiveness.

Our ExperienceBUILDERTM simulations foster emotional intelligence and encourage empathy by guiding individuals into meaningful conversations to work through complex situations, uncovering biases and judgment, and improving inclusion efforts for a diverse workforce. In an ExperienceBUILDER simulation, teams collaborate to find solutions that balance business needs with other priorities. Working as a team encourages all learners to talk through the various challenges and associated responses, allowing them to explore and appreciate different perspectives and beliefs. 

3. Create immersive learning opportunities 

Using realistic, scenario-based learning allows for enhanced learner engagement, regardless of a learner’s physical location. The need to deliver scenario simulations to a hybrid workforce was one inspiration for ExperienceBUILDER, which delivers highly immersive and engaging synchronous learning experiences to teams of learners, regardless of location. Each immersive learning experience is carefully crafted to maximize participant engagement and drive knowledge retention and skills acquisition. These real-life simulations induce thoughtful conversations, leading learners to share personal experiences and unique points of view, uncover best practices, explore potential pitfalls, and build their skills both as individuals and as part of a team.

4. Keep employees engaged 

It’s no secret that engaged employees are more motivated and productive; they also remain committed to their employers for longer. A hybrid work environment demands new ways to keep people connected and to prevent the risks of proximity bias and polarization. 

One of the tried-and-tested ways to increase employee engagement is to invest in employee development. As we have discussed, the means of doing so has changed in the world of the hybrid workforce. ExperienceBUILDER, delivers immersive and engaging collaborative learning activities that get hybrid and remote teams of learners talking and connecting just as effectively as they would in a traditional classroom. Keeping them engaged in their individual development and with others on their team fosters a culture of commitment. 

5. Harness new tools and technology  

New platforms and innovative ideas for enabling remote collaboration have exploded onto the scene in the last two years. ExperienceBUILDER, is a digital design platform that delivers immersive learning simulations custom-designed for your organization’s needs. Small teams of learners around the world are given the opportunity to explore ways to solve your company’s most pressing challenges regardless of location, device, or language. 

In an ExperienceBUILDER simulation, learners are presented with complex problems based on real-world situations, along with a range of solutions with no clear right or wrong answers. Learners work in teams to make difficult decisions that require them to consider important concepts, determine critical variables, and anticipate the potential impacts on a combination of business metrics. To move forward, learners must engage in deep discussions and vigorous debate to tease out best practices and common mistakes to identify the best possible solution for that specific situation. This collaborative and engaging approach allows for a richer and more relevant learning experience for a hybrid audience. 

Are you faced with the challenge to develop high-quality, effective training for a hybrid workforce? Contact us to see first-hand how our ExperienceBUILDER platform is changing the game.