Good leaders are hard to come by. Almost half of the companies that participated in the Workplace Trends’ Global Workforce Leadership Survey in February and March 2015 chose leadership as the hardest skill to find in employees. What’s more, among the 1,000 employee participants, only 36 percent called leadership a strength in their organizations.
One of the problems here is that when they analyze their leadership-development issues, most organizations put the responsibility on employees to improve, or on current leaders to train their teams. Employers expect their employees to attend leadership training events, take a development course or find a mentor to advance their skills and careers.
Alternately, the pressure is on managers to identify leaders in their teams and train them to follow in their footsteps -- in addition to their regular responsibilities.
But in this way, employers miss a big piece of the puzzle: human resources. HR needs to get involved in leadership development; otherwise organizations will be stuck in the same pattern. Here’s how HR can help boost leadership development:
1. Define leadership.
What does great leadership look like? And what traits are the most important for a leader to have?
The answers of course vary from person to person and company to company. For some, a great leader may be someone who focuses on communication and transparency, while others may see a "leader" as someone who helps pick up the slack when the team is in need.
Everyone has an individual dea of what great leadership means, and each company needs something different depending on its culture and goals.
That’s where HR comes in. It’s HR’s job to get everyone onto the same page and define what leadership means within that particular company. HR has the power to define what the individual organizational brand of leadership is.
2. Identify potential.
Once the organization has a clear idea of what leadership looks like, HR can help identify which employees possess the right qualities for the job.
After all, a study conducted by Gallup found that just 18 percent of current managers had the talent required for the role. But HR is uniquely positioned to pick out employees with the leadership skills employers need. HR professionals have a larger view of talent, performance and skills. Where managers and coworkers likely have a limited view of employees, HR gets the whole picture.
From its vantage point, HR can review and compare feedback from managers, peers and clients. It can see skills and strengths, and identify those who exude the leadership qualities the organization needs. HR has a deep understanding of the skills needed and the best view of where those skills lie among employees across the organization.
3. Develop skills.
Having the right skills isn’t enough to be a great leader -- professionals need training and development. And many employers fall short in this area. In fact, 39 percent of companies surveyed by Workplace Trends said they offered leadership development programs, but just 15 percent of their employees felt these programs effectively prepared them for their next role.
It’s not just new leaders who are missing out. Veterans feel that they aren’t growing in their positions, either. Among those surveyed by Gallup, only 40 percent strongly agreed that they had had opportunities to learn and grow at work in the past year.
So, the training and development programs already available may be ineffective because HR isn’t involved -- and that needs to change. The reason is that HR can "see it all" -- the gaps in skills, the ways in which leadership development programs can be created to fit their organizations' definition of leadership and the preferences of those already in leadership positions for what's needed to foster growth.
4. Offer support.
Better training isn’t the only way HR can contribute to leadership development. HR can build support for leaders into the processes and policies of the company. In other words, HR can set up recruitment and promotion processes, plus performance reviews to support and reinforce positive leadership.
For example, HR can make sure the organization recruits for the leadership skills needed. These skills can be requirements for positions that involve leading others right now or developing talent for future leadership roles.
In addition, HR can add leadership considerations into the promotion and performance-review process. That way, those who deserve a promotion but may not be suited for leadership can still get the recognition they deserve without being placed in a role they’re not right for. And that benefits everyone.
Performance reviews and management can not only screen for leadership qualities, but also reinforce what good leadership looks like in a organization.
That way, leaders will be recognized for their hard work as they continue to improve and develop. With HR’s support, leadership development can be built into every level of the company.