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Six tactics to cultivate future-minded leadership skills

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Fostering a growth mindset and nurturing future-minded leadership skills within your employee development programmes is imperative to help your organisational culture evolve.

15th Mar 2022
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Employee development is imperative at any level. It keeps workers engaged and motivated, and also boosts productivity and business performance. Unfortunately, many organisations underestimate the value of professional development and, more specifically, how this can nurture a growth mindset.

Only 29% of businesses have robust development plans in place for employees, according to Accenture. How can we take it upon ourselves as leaders and organisations to create a culture that fosters growth, regardless of what formalised development programs are in place? 

Future-minded leaders are able to overcome challenges more quickly and effectively because they’ve refined their approach to planning and anticipating obstacles

Recent research from BetterUp Labs suggests that 'future-minded leadership' skills are one key area to focus on. Psychologists like BetterUp Science board member Martin Seligman, Roy Baumeister, and Ayelet Meron Ruscio refer to this future-mindedness as 'prospection' — the innate human ability to think about the future and envision what’s possible. 

Future-minded leaders are able to overcome challenges more quickly and effectively because they’ve refined their approach to planning and anticipating obstacles. Supporting employees in becoming future-minded leaders drives various benefits, including an 18% improvement in performance level, 18% rise in innovation and 25% more agility, according to our insights. But this is just one of many skills today’s workforce needs to thrive.

So, what should organisations do to embed these and other crucial skills at the heart of their working cultures? 

What is the right approach to development?

Covid-19 has transformed employee expectations around working arrangements, emotional support, and career trajectories. This is fuelling unprecedented movement in the job market. 

While research shows companies are responding, organisations need to do more to ensure that this moment of reflection is channelled in the right way and that they don’t lose staff, particularly as this also makes financial sense. It’s six times less expensive to upskill and reskill employees from within rather than hire from the outside.

Development programmes need to be structured around individuals. A 'one-size-fits-all' approach simply won’t cut it. Business and HR leaders should draw on behavioural insights and data to identify trigger points and motivations, using this to create personalised plans that will energise and inspire employees. 

So, what exactly should an effective development programme entail? From coaching to corporate universities, there’s no shortage of employee development tactics out there:

1. Coaching and mentoring

A mentoring programme connects employees with a more senior member of the team. This encourages knowledge sharing and opens doors to new and exciting networking opportunities. 

A career coach, meanwhile, helps employees set and achieve goals using techniques that drive results. They’re usually paid and can be useful at any stage of an employee’s career. Our research has found that collaborating with others can foster more future-minded leadership skills. Getting outside perspectives from others – whether that’s from a mentor, a coach or from teammates – can foster higher levels of future-minded leadership than working alone or being narrowly focused.

Navigating interdependencies with others can help us build that muscle of envisioning consequences of decisions and plan for what’s in or out of our control while exposing us to others’ perspectives on the future. 

2. Workshops that support the whole person

Workshops are ideal for developing soft skills or learning new concepts that can help staff grow and become future-minded leaders. These can be held virtually or in-person depending on the distribution of the workforce and can include a broad variety of topics, ranging from mindfulness, financial wellness, navigating working parenthood, and diversity and inclusion.

Not only do these events represent developmental opportunities that span topics outside the day-to-day work, but they also provide a platform for sharing ideas, networking and cross-collaboration between teams, all of which are vital in nurturing future-minded leaders. 

Corporate universities are also becoming an increasingly popular investment: not just for employee development, but to make the learning and development process as engaging as possible

3. Stretch assignments

Stretch assignments put employees in a challenging position outside of their comfort zone. These opportunities expand employees’ skill sets and prepare them for leadership roles. Stretch assignments can be anything from leading a team meeting to implementing new technology at work.

These assignments should challenge employees to go outside their comfort zone, while also setting them up for success. Ensuring that employees are supported as they undertake new roles and responsibilities is key to creating a culture of psychological safety. 

4. Corporate training

Alongside more informal workshops, it may be beneficial to consider more formal corporate training sessions. These include training on processes, corporate compliance, as well as hard and soft skills – tending to be more closely aligned with job roles and competencies. 

Corporate universities are also becoming an increasingly popular investment: not just for employee development, but to make the learning and development process as engaging as possible. These are institutions within organisations offering staff educational resources, courses and workshops designed to improve performance. 

These types of learning opportunities can be beneficial when it comes to driving optimal performance and preparing employees for leadership roles. Organisations that don’t have the ability to provide specific training for every type of role can instead provide employees with a learning & development stipend so they can seek out relevant training for their field. 

5. Career planning

Career planning is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to employee development. Managers should aim to work with direct reports to create a personalised plan to help individuals progress, drawing on data and digital insights to create objectives which genuinely correspond with an individual’s strengths, desires and developmental areas. 

A critical point is that this should be a collaborative process, and it should be an ongoing discussion. These should be regularly held conversations that aren’t dictated entirely by the manager. Employees should be encouraged to own their growth and career trajectories. 

Employee development opportunities matter now more than ever, preparing employees to deal with moments of transformation

6. Job rotation

Another effective approach to professional development is job rotation. Not only does this allow them to explore different career paths, but it provides exposure to new skill sets which can be transferred to their current job role.  It also enhances their understanding of the purpose of the organisation and how different divisions work together in pursuing overarching strategic goals. 

Making employee development a priority

The pandemic showed us how fast the world can change, both in our personal and professional lives. That’s why employee development opportunities matter now more than ever, preparing employees to deal with moments of transformation and helping them develop new leadership styles suited to a hybrid working environment. 

By investing in their workers, organisations can prepare themselves for the future and nurture the next generation of future-minded leaders. 

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