Happy 2019 to you! Likely you’re reading this from the treadmill, trying to achieve your new year’s resolution goals. Everybody loves the fresh new start that comes with a fresh new year; corporations are no exception. This blog will tell you about two new(ish) trends in employee development and engagement. I say new-ish, because the truth is that companies who “get it” have been into these so-called trends for a while now, but it’s never too late to jump aboard. Unlike 2019’s fashion trend of baby bangs which are absolutely dreadful (don’t believe me? Look them up) and hopefully will die out soon, developing emerging leaders and focusing on Diversity and Inclusion are two trends that shouldn’t go away.

Create an emerging leader development program. For the last couple years, anyone and everyone have been getting into this space. What’s a little odd to me is the trend of these programs being offered by third parties. It’s everyone from chambers of commerce and magazines to professional/trade groups to yes, not making this up, a dog training school trying to extend their learnings to people. Why are all these groups getting into leadership development? To serve the people whose companies AREN’T investing in their development systematically. Some companies are sending one or two people to one of these third-party programs to develop them, and if your company is very small this may absolutely be the right approach.

However, for most even small- to mid-sized companies, odds are you have at least 9-12 high potential individuals who could benefit from an ongoing leadership development program that is focused on development within your organization…based on your organizational culture, solving your organization’s business problems. The program should have multiple elements including individual assessment and coaching, small group learning, an action learning project (i.e. a real work issue that the company needs solved) and sure, some traditional training. Not only do the employees get the most development out of a professionally-developed, robust program, they also feel a loyalty to your company for having your own program.

Beef up your Diversity and Inclusion focus. You’ve no doubt noticed that the world in general is acutely aware of the need to be conscious of unconscious biases, to understanding people from different cultures and races, and to move far beyond “tolerance” to true inclusion. As a result, companies have renewed energy around Employee Resource Groups and more broadly, educating the workforce on the business importance of emotional intelligence and relating to a diverse set of people. It is crucial that a company’s interest in increasing their D&I (as it’s known amongst those already into this trend) be legitimate and sincere. No one wants to see a company checking the box and instituting a superficial program just to keep up with the Corporate Joneses. Where the company leadership truly understands both the moral imperative and the business imperative to create this awareness that is where results and sustainability will be.

Some absolute essentials for either of these leadership trends:

  1. Truly believe in the work you’re undertaking vs. thinking of it as only a trend/flavor of the month program
  2. Involve content experts in designing these programs to ensure you get the business results you want
  3. Be patient with a sustained focus vs creating something for a year and letting it drop. Business results come from longevity.

Making even one of these two changes can greatly increase your workforce effectiveness and engagement, as well as your attractiveness to potential employees and customers.