Leadership Development

Research undertaken by the CIPD recently found that 72% of organisations reported a deficit in leadership and management skills, even though two-thirds of organisations claim to provide training for their managers. However, as I pointed out in my previous article, this training may not be delivering much value.

The report also highlighted that only 36% of organisations say that individuals promoted into managerial roles receive additional training, with 51% saying ‘sometimes’, and 12% providing no training at all for new managers. Central to these failings is that efforts to foster positive manager behaviours are being undermined by the lack of a consistent message of what organisations expect of leaders.

Commenting on the research, Ksenia Zheltoukhova the CIPD’s research associate, stated that:

It’s time for business to identify and address the roots of bad management, recognising that a more consistent approach to training and supporting leaders at all levels of an organisation is needed to drive sustainable performance.

Performance Management

According to Mercer’s 2013 Global Performance Management Survey, conducted on 1,050 organisations in 53 countries, “just 3% of organisations worldwide report their overall performance management system provides exceptional value”. Top of the list, in terms of the key drivers behind this, is the skill of managers in how successfully they set employee goals, provide feedback, evaluate performance, and link performance to critical talent management decisions.

Only 58 per cent of managers were deemed ‘marginally skilled in providing career development coaching and direction’, by survey respondents, and, only 7 per cent of managers were felt to be ‘highly skilled at having candid dialogued with their direct reports about performance’.

In summary then, what the research by both the CIPD and Mercer is telling us is that businesses feel there is a deficit in leadership and management skills, and this is impacting on how successfully employees are performance managed and developed in the workplace. But a major part of the problem is the lack of clear strategy when it comes to developing leaders within the workplace. So what is it then that businesses can be do to try and deal with these issues?

The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

In order to try and improve this gap between leadership skills and performance management, businesses need to think differently about what they believe makes managers truly effective, and then develop a learning and development strategy around this. As pointed out in this article:

The best companies for leadership recognise that … high levels of emotional intelligence, commitment to continuous learning and analytical thinking are now critical at every level of the organisation.

At every level of the organisation, staff are looking for more meaning in the work lives and management need to be aware of this if performance management is to be effective. The traditional notions of “carrot and stick” to motivate staff will not deliver high performance, it is only likely to produce donkeys. Instead, managers need training and developing on what is required to manage the workforce in the modern economy.

The MAP to Success

Within this video, Daniel Pink talks about research which goes against the dominant thinking that if you want people to perform better you reward them. Within his presentation he talks about research that has consistently shown that in tasks that require even “rudimentary cognitive skill”, offering people larger rewards leads to poorer performance. This is because traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think, they narrow the mind and focus; meaning that people can be less creative. Instead, if you want to foster a creative workplace, people need to have the following in their working lives:

  • Mastery – the desire to become better at something that matters
  • Autonomy – the urge to direct our own lives
  • Purpose – the need to contribute to something greater than ourselves

In effect, what businesses need to do, is develop a clear performance management strategy that equips managers with the tools to deal with staff in the knowledge economy of the 21st century. This will allow them to foster environments were creative, right-brain thinking is encouraged and people are self directed. Employees now will not blindly follow what they are told by their managers, and will instead look for more purpose and meaning in their working lives, as such businesses need to recognise this if performance management is to improve.

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The beatles performing

In my last post I explored the subject of how the traditional business approach to employee learning and development is to isolate a particular area for development and then build a training event around this; most likely away from the workplace. My motivation for writing this was from an episode of this year’s The Apprentice in which the contestants gave an extreme example of how this traditional approach to employee training can go horribly wrong, albeit with actions that were recognisable.

My view on how we can counter the problems highlighted from this traditional approach to employee learning and development helped spark some good debate amongst L&D professionals, who were keen to understand what the future of workplace training may hold. I first of all want to make clear that the traditional approach to learning and development, (e.g. specific training days away from the workplace), are still relevant, but as part of a wider performance management intervention.

The 70:20:10 Framework

The 70:20:10 framework helps to give an alternative as to how training and development can be managed more efficiently by businesses. Simply put, the framework sees individual learning and development within the workplace occurring as follows:

  • 70% is through on-the-job experience
  • 20% is through working with others
  • 10% is through structured courses and programmes

The 70:20:10 framework is rooted in research carried out through the 1980s at the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL). It is based upon professor Allen Tough’s work on adult learning, in which he identified that ‘about 70% of all learning projects are planned by the learner himself’.

It is worth noting though, that the 70:20:10 framework is not an absolute ratio, but it is a helpful framework for businesses to consider in designing training and development interventions in the workplace.


The “70” is on-the-job learning – everything that employees can learn from the activities they undertake as part of their role. Examples of this include:

  • Work shadowing a colleague
  • Reflecting on a work experience or project
  • Using manuals / guides to complete a task
  • Practising a coaching technique on a team member
  • Problem solving


The “20” refers to the learning  you can gain from working with others in the workplace. Examples of this includes:

  • Mentoring
  • Coaching
  • Working with colleagues from other departments / areas
  • Utilising internal and external networks
  • Collaborative learning through social technologies

Change Agent

What the 70:20:10 framework can do is provide a structure into which performance management strategies can be extended, to cover more than just attendance on courses or corporate away days. The key to making it work though, is ensuring that managers are effective in managing day-to-day performance and actively supporting employees in reflecting on their workplace experiences . As Charles Jennings points out here:

research carried out by the Corporate Leadership Council showed that Managers who set clear objectives, explain their expectations, and clearly set out how they plan to measure performance have teams that outperform others by almost 20%.

What this points to is the importance that businesses must give in ensuring that training and development is anchored to the normal daily workflow, instead of separate from it in isolated learning interventions. But even if businesses want to pay more attention to the 70:20:10 framework, they also need to ensure that line managers are equipped in supporting this, but as can be seen from this article, this is an area of real concern.

The Apprentice Training

In this year’s instalment of The Apprentice there was an episode in which the contestants were tasked with organising a corporate training “away day” for two blue chip clients in team-building, communication and listening skills. For anyone who did not see it, both teams failed to deliver a training event that fulfilled the clients’ needs, as they simply threw together several “team building” exercises, with a tenuous link to an overall themed day.  One team had a back to school theme that included cake making and wine tasting, whilst the other had an army theme that included archery and sumo wrestling!

Although The Apprentice is TV entertainment, and not reflective of a real workplace environment, it did highlight many errors of training and development design that many businesses can fall foul of; namely that:

  • The training has little impact on person’s day-to-day job
  • No meaningful follow-up is planned after the event
  • There is no measure of the return on investment (ROI)

Part of the problem could be that the traditional approach to training and development is to identify a learning need, and then design a programme away from the workplace that addresses this. By working this way, businesses can encounter the errors highlighted above and end up with training events that are similar to those experienced in The Apprentice. The reason for this may be because the learning is taking place away from the job, it is less meaningful and therefore harder to generate any real change in behaviours.

Extracting Learning From Work

In order to counter these issues, the answer may in fact be to look beyond the traditional idea of workplace training and development were you inject a learning intervention into the workflow, by instead looking to extract learning from work. This idea was examined by Charles Jennings in the following article and is based upon research by the Corporate Executive Board.

What was discussed in this article is that the traditional approach to employee training and development is to isolate a particular area for development, say communication, and then build a training event around this. Most likely this event would be delivered in a course away from the workplace.

So, using the example from The Apprentice; the senior managers were attending the “away day” with the explicit purpose of developing new team-building, communication and listening skills, to then transfer them back to the workplace. One of the reasons why the contestants may have failed on this task was because the training activities designed were separate from the normal workflow and therefore, without the context in which to reflect on this, the learning was minimal.

Context is Key

Context is critical to this theory, because as Charles Jennings points out:

if people have the opportunity to learn and develop as part of their work and they are supported by their manager, then learning will be much better transformed into measurable behavioural change and performance improvement.

Rather than injecting learning into the workflow, extracting focuses on allowing workers to learn more from their day-to-day work, without having to adjust their normal work practices by undertaking specific activities, (e.g. attending an “away day”). Examples of how this could work in practice are:

  • After completing a project, all those involved could be by encouraged to reflect on their experiences to help draw out new learning experiences.
  • Managers providing new and challenging work to develop skills on-the-job.
  • Business leaders introducing social and mobile technologies to encourage collaboration and the sharing of ideas.

Measuring the Return

By moving to training and development that is aligned closely to the workflow, businesses can measure the impact by linking it in with normal performance management metrics and reviews. This helps to give greater clarity as to whether training is transferring into improved work based performance.

These ideas may seem alien to conventional wisdom on how best to train and develop staff, but by sticking to a traditional training model like that used in The Apprentice, it can only lead to more time and money being wasted by businesses.

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Magnificen Seven

A recent report written by Towards Maturity has identified 7 habits of highly aligned learning and development functions that can help to add bottom line business value. The report was conducted with over 300 companies from the private, public and not for profit sectors.

Examples of bottom line business value found from the report were:

  • the ability to implement new processes or products faster
  • increased productivity
  • improved customer satisfaction
  • better compliance with new regulations and legal requirements
  • improved performance management


Although this report is based on research from companies with a specific L&D function, I believe these findings can be applied to SME’s, especially those who have the right mentoring support or networks in place. The reason being is that from my experience of providing SMEs with HR mentoring support, there is real scope to help business owners understand how investment in learning and development can help to add value.

The Magnificent 7

So from the report, what are the seven habits identified and how can they work for SMEs?

  1. Use strategic business objectives to determine learning priorities. Every small business must have specific needs or objectives they want to achieve; however, the day-to-day operations may stop leaders remembering this. When working with SMEs, I always spent time talking to them about what they wanted to achieve over the next 12 months, so we could then build HR action plans around this that would include learning and development priorities.
  2. Decide what learning interventions to use. Learning interventions could take the form of training, coaching, e-learning, distance learning or social learning. For SMEs, learning and development interventions should be regarded as an investment rather than a cost but, unfortunately, this generally is not the case. In order for this habit to work, there should be a clear return on investment expectation set at the start, so that leaders know the benefit of the return outweighs the initial investment of money or time away from work.
  3. Focus on the end results. You now know what your priorities are and the learning interventions to use, what targets do you want to set to measure against? You could have specific metrics you want in place to measure against, to ensure that the learning transfers back to the workplace. Or, you may set a minimum standard of qualification / certification that needs to be attained by certain staff within a time period.
  4. Integrate learning with performance management. To ensure that any learning isn’t lost, there should always be a follow-up through performance reviews and planning. This ensures that learning is taken seriously and reviewed with employees. Business owners should take time on a regular basis to have these discussions with their staff.
  5. Demonstrate business value. Once you have your metrics in place, you can then begin to evaluate the ROI. It may be that you can show an increase in sales performance, customer satisfaction or productivity. Or it may be you show a decrease in staff turnover, customer complaints or sick days. Either way, these are metrics that any business could begin to use with ease.
  6. Ensure staff understand their contribution. By utilising performance management techniques, you can be sure that staff are clear about how any learning they are involved in supports wider business objectives and success. This in turn can help improve employee engagement.
  7. Commit to learning and development interventions. Without any commitment from those leading SMEs, there will be very little commitment from staff to take learning and development seriously. If this happens, then any time and money invested into learning and development will be wasted.


Kick-start the habits

In increasingly competitive markets, SMEs need to get ahead of the field and the findings highlighted in the Towards Maturity report provide a framework for achieving this, so business owners really need to think about how they can put together a framework for following this.


Hands up those who knows who won the 1974 World Cup? The answer was West Germany, but unusually it is the team they beat in the final which is one of the most revered and remembered in world football.

I am of course referring to the famous Netherlands team who pioneered Total Football under the management of Rinus Michels and the on-field captaincy of Johan Cruyff. Prior to this, the Netherlands were a footballing minnow, but from 1971 the country’s leading club side Ajax won the European Cup three years in a row and the national side reached the World Cup final in 1974 and 78, all under the management of Michels.

Total Football

The philosophy of Total Football is built upon on the adaptability of each footballer within the team, with particular emphasis on the ability to quickly switch positions during play. The theory requires players to be comfortable in multiple positions; thus retaining the team’s intended organisational structure and allowing them to continue to attack the opposition.

In this fluid system, no outfield player is fixed in a nominal role; anyone can be successively an attacker, a midfielder and a defender. A simple theory, but one that demands intense training behind the scenes to get right and talented individuals to implement on the field.

So what, I hear you ask, does this have to do with training and development within the workplace?

Common Workplace Problems

Have you ever been in the situation within a workplace where you take over from someone who held all the knowledge about a certain task or process and never shared it with anyone? Or worked with a person who is reluctant to delegate work or give up control, as they see themselves as the only people competent at completing tasks? If you have, then welcome to the world of the empire builder; the person who wants to ensure that they are seen as indispensable to the business. Not only are they incredibly frustrating to take over from or work with, they are also detrimental to your business.

Or I am sure you have seen the employees within a workplace who are bored and unmotivated about completing the same repetitive tasks day in, day out. These are the people that don’t get any opportunities to stretch themselves or work on any new challenges and thus become disengaged with their jobs. Their lack of motivation or enthusiasm for the job will also hold the business back.

Total Learning

Now imagine applying the philosophy of Total Football within a workplace context to these common problems. For the purposes of this article, let’s call it “Total Learning”. With no fixed nominal position, the empire builders would not be given the opportunity to erm…, build an empire, as they are constantly on the move and under scrutiny. And in this fluid system, bored and unmotivated employees would be a thing of the past, due to the constant new challenges they would be involved with.

A recent article by Charles Jennings of the 70:20:10 Forum, highlighted that businesses:

“will only achieve ‘breakthrough performance’ and achieve their business goals when employees go beyond individual task performance and demonstrate high ‘network performance’. In other words, we need to plan and work not only at building individual capability, but also team and collaborative and co-operative capabilities”

This is based on the Corporate Executive Board’s ‘Building High Performance Capability for the New Work Environment’ report published towards the end of 2012.

What this means in practice is that businesses must be prepared to look at the current skillset they have within the workforce and which training and development interventions are required to ensure they can up-skill people in multiple roles. This will require detailed planning and commitment; but so did the philosophy of Total Football when Rinus Michels began it in the 1960s.


One example of how the philosophy of Total Learning can be applied to workplace training and development can be found in the excellent book “Maverick!” by Ricardo Semler, in which he talks about the job rotation programme that became institutionalised within Semco. Under the scheme, managers were encouraged to swap jobs with other managers every two to five years and work on this transition up to twelve months in advance.

According to Semler, the benefits gleaned from such a programme were:

it obliged people to learn new skills, it discouraged empire building, gave people a broader knowledge of the business, and allowed people to see situations from another’s viewpoint.

There will always be fixed; specialist “goalkeeper” roles within a business that you could not apply the rotation principle to, which is understandable. But I’m sure there are plenty of roles within each business in which rotation could be applied, but it is having the courage to go against conventional thinking, like the Netherlands in the 1970s that is the stumbling block.


So think about it, if businesses we more geared towards giving training and development that encouraged employees to be comfortable within multiple roles, then it could help to produce a more agile, free-flowing workforce. As well as this, you could also imagine the employees would be more motivated and engaged in doing their jobs and going the extra mile.

Therefore, although West Germany won the prize in 1974, it is the Netherlands team of Total Football that have left the greatest long-term legacy.