The Future of Leadership Development: Combining Technology and the Human Element to Reach Your Business Outcomes

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By: Susan Ruhl

A change toward a higher level of group performance is frequently short-lived, after a “shot in the arm,” group life soon returns to the previous level. This indicates that it does not suffice to define the objective of planned change in-group performance as the reaching of a different level. Permanency of the new level, or permanency for a desired period, should be included in the objective.

—Kurt Lewin

It is estimated that the U.S. alone spends $24.5 Million every year on leadership development.  That is a lot of money, but the dirty little secret is that most of the money spent has been wasted because development is typically not strategically aligned with business outcomes.  Of course we hope that our participants enjoy the development, but beyond that there is very little done to make sure that companies are seeing the desired behavior change that actually leads to business results.

The quote above was made by one of the pioneers of social, organizational, and applied psychology in the United States in the 1950’s!  We are a full 70 years later and yet we are still struggling to achieve permanency in our development efforts. Lewin described the process in which data were used to drive change in terms of planning, action, and measuring results.  I love looking at research that became prominent so long ago because it often drives home the point that the more things change the more they stay the same.

To understand how this research still rings true yet needs a tweak, let’s examine Lewin’s 3 steps to achieving measurable business outcomes through the lens of 2019.

  1. Unfreezing: This is where motivation for change is created and awareness for the need to change is identified. Whether it’s an individual, group, or organization, there is usually some sort of gap between the current state and the ideal state. This gap is usually felt at the leadership level by way of diminished business results.  While technology can certainly help us identify these gaps more readily, without the leadership team (aka…humans) driving the change from the top down so that their teams understand the why, motivation is little and the current state stays frozen.
  2. Changing or Movement: So the gap has been determined, and the solutions identified. Now, encouraging new behaviors across the company are necessary to make steps toward the desired outcome.  With the ever-increasing amount of technology and the ever-decreasing amount of time available for development, this is an ideal place to harness technology to improve the delivery of new solutions.  Micro learning, simulations, podcasts and videos are just a few of the ways we can deliver the information over time to facilitate true change or movement.
  3. Refreezing: This is the critical missing link. Change happens in this step with behaviors implemented and reinforced until they become habitual. While this step is often overlooked, this is where the true magic of combining the human element and technology to really get those desired results happens.  Even though the new information has been introduced, this alone will not lead to permanent change.  Technology alone will not work here.  Research shows that 80% of learning happens on the job from peers and managers. The only problem with this is bandwidth.  With a lack of time and resources, leaving it strictly up to the human element is unrealistic.  To refreeze the desired behavior change, programs must include technology prompts for participants to remember the behavior and technology prompts for the manager to know how to create an environment for the participant to practice the new behaviors.  One of the most effective areas to achieve this refreezing is to provide peer group sessions with a coach.  It is in these sessions that groups can learn from each other and redirect their behaviors when they veer off course.

ICC has used years of research to combine all of these elements into a powerful development solution to do exactly this.  By combining technology and the human element in one platform, we are seeing our clients on the job application soar above 90%.  How are your learning and development practices moving the past into the future for better business outcomes?

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