10 Leadership Training Paths Every Team Needs

10 Leadership Training Paths Every Team Needs

If you’ve been reading our blog, you already know the importance of having a mature training and development program. Your employees perform better within their current roles, develop for future roles, and gain confidence – among other perks. However, you may still be wondering how to get there, and what programs to offer. Truly, the options are endless. You can (and should) consider offering training options specific to skills you see as gaps within your workforce, new skills emerging in your industry, or even skills you see your competition excelling at.


In addition to those industry or skill-specific training courses, most organizations can (and again, should) choose to offer leadership training opportunities to help prepare their team for leadership opportunities, and strengthen the skills of current leaders. There is a wide range of leadership training curriculum available, so it can be difficult to know where to start. Below, we’ll describe ten leadership training paths that you should consider your minimum starting point for your team.


Training Path Sample Learning Objectives Team Benefits
Conflict Management

●   Recognize the importance of interpersonal relationships in the workplace, and understand the impact of conflict within a team

●   Identify the signs of conflict within a team or interpersonal relationship and demonstrate the use of appropriate communication skills to respond

●   Effectively demonstrate conflict intervention strategies that can be applied within the workplace

A team that is able to recognize and respond to conflict will be able to quickly resolve disputes in a professional manner, inside and outside of their team.
Navigating Change

●   Understand the principles related to implementing change initiatives in an organization

●   Identify change management practices and communication styles that can assist in the sustainment of new changes in the workplace

●   Demonstrate appropriate communication tools that can support change initiatives in small and large scales

In today’s fast-paced world, a team that understands the complicated nature of change, and how to better facilitate it, will only serve an organization’s growth.
Critical Problem Solving

●   Understand theory and practice related to data analysis and data gathering that can assist with problem solving in common workplace problems

●   Identify different data sources within your workplace that are likely to be useful tools in solving problems

●   Discuss metrics and frameworks necessary for measuring success

While your team may be lucky enough to have a data analytics team, everyone has the need to solve problems. When your team has the resources and know-how to tackle complex issues independently, they become a greater asset to the organization.
Virtual Leadership

●   Discuss best practices and guiding frameworks to facilitate a highly functioning hybrid team

●   Identify tools and resources that can support your connection, communication and work coordination efforts

●   Demonstrate effective methods for communication and follow-up without a face-to-face connection

The hybrid workplace may still be forming, but it appears to be the way of the future; effective leaders must learn to adapt their leadership style to fit multiple platforms and connect with their teams wherever they are.
Building Trust and Mutual Respect

●   Discuss the framework and principles for building trust within a team

●   Identify best practices that can assist you with building a culture of trust and respect within your team

As resignations continue to soar, a highly trusted and well-regarded leader is much more likely to retain their employees.
The Art of Prioritization

●   Review best practices for managing time and eliminating inefficiencies in your day-to-day tasks

●   Identify your own inefficiencies in your regular routine; determine a plan for becoming more efficient

●   Demonstrate effective methods for prioritization after eliminating inefficiencies

Many leaders have been tasked with extra responsibilities but no extra time – teaching your team the skill of prioritizing to ensure the most critical tasks are the ones that are accomplished first will help to ensure things stay afloat.
How to Coach your Team

●   Understand the background and framework of effective coaching

●   Identify your team’s strengths and opportunities and their corresponding coaching need

●   Determine best practices to assist you in effective coaching of your team

Teams need a leader, not just a task manager. Ensuring your leaders have coaching skills will help to ensure they’re truly supporting their teams.
Running Effective Meetings

●   Discuss types of meetings, and corresponding agendas and frameworks to effectively accomplish meeting goals

●   Identify key players within meetings and tools to effectively assist with meeting flow

●   Discuss meetings within your organization, and the best approach for implementing effective meetings

With most leaders spending their days in back-to-back meetings, it is critical to ensure that the meetings in your organization are serving a purpose and accomplishing their goals.
Sharpening Your Communication Skills

●   Understand the underlying principles of effective communication, and different communication styles and formats

●   Determine your preferences for communication, and those of your team

●   Assess the gap between your communication style and those you regularly communicate with; develop an action plan for change

The best leader may not be taken seriously if they can’t effectively communicate. Offering training on effective communication will help teams to communicate internally, and help leaders to grow by sharpening this skill.
The Need to Innovate

●   Understand the need and value of innovation within an organization

●   Brainstorm opportunities for innovation within your organization

●   Develop an action plan to create more opportunities for innovation within the organization

The best ideas come from within; the best leaders allow the ideas to come. Ensuring innovation is included as a training course sends a message to your team that new ideas are not only welcome but necessary to continue the organization’s growth.


These ten training paths should be considered the minimum starting point for your organization’s training program – once you have these courses up and running, continue your expansion! Ask your team for new ideas; you may find that once they begin engaging in development work, they realize there is much more they have an interest in.

Not sure where to start? Online resources can certainly get you started – you may consider looking into courses available for purchase, or even curriculum that you can utilize to form your own courses. Regardless, the investment you make here is certain to pay off in a more deeply engaged and better performing team.

Five Steps to Optimize Your Hiring through Structured Interviews

Five Steps to Optimize Your Hiring through Structured Interviews

HR leaders and organization executives alike are struggling with the challenge of filling critical openings on their teams as the global talent pool has evolved and competition has increased. The statistics shown below from the Society for Human Resource Management have not been updated to reflect the recent change in staffing trends, and at this point may even be optimistic. However, it goes without saying that if an organization is going to have a critical position open for an average of 36 days before filling it, they likely have interest in optimizing the process as much as possible.

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While many leaders and hiring managers may like the idea of unstructured interviews in order to put the candidate at ease in a more casual environment, structured interviews provide a much more precise approach to hiring. As shown above, in slower-moving organizations, it can take close to a month to screen applicants, interview applicants and make a final decision. Structured interviews provide firmer guidelines for assessing candidates, streamlining the decision process. Additionally, structured interviews help to protect your organization legally in compliance with regulations, as each candidate will have an equal and fair review process, with equitable information and less built-in bias.

Read on for steps to include in a structured interview process.

1. Write a detailed job description, with defined qualifications


While this may seem premature to include in an interview process, it is essential to plan early to achieve the best results. As you’re crafting your job description, consider the qualifications that are truly necessary to accomplish the objectives of the position. Be sure they are measurable and clear to prospective applicants. Not only will this provide you with a better, more-qualified applicant pool, it will assist you with Step 2.


2. Assess your candidates according to the qualifications in the job description


Using the qualifications included in your job description, assess your candidates. If it is helpful, rank-order or assign weights to the included qualifications. At a minimum, group your candidates according to whether they fail to meet the qualifications, meet the qualifications, or exceed the qualifications, and then narrow your pool from there. Sticking to the qualifications, rather than your “instinct”, will ensure you’re taking a more systematic approach to selecting the best candidates and eliminating potential bias. Many Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) can assist with this process, and help you track the candidates throughout the hiring process.


3. Write a series of behavioral interview questions


With your job description still handy, consider what you’ll need to assess in an interview, and  write a series of behavioral interview questions. Behavioral interviewing asks a candidate to provide actual experiences to answer questions, which allows you to more accurately assess their competency and ability to perform the position. An easy way to think about a behavioral interview question is one that begins with “Tell me about a time when…”. Rather than asking your candidate to provide you a hypothetical answer to a question, they will provide you with actual evidence of their ability to accomplish the objective at hand.

To write your questions, review your critical competencies in your job description, and consider how a candidate may have shown an example of that competency. A few examples are provided below.


Competency to Measure Behavioral Interview Question
  • Project Leadership or Managing Conflicting Priorities
Tell me about a time you led or were part of a complex project. What was your role, and how did you navigate challenges along the way?
  • Data Analysis or Problem Solving
Think about the last time you were faced with a difficult problem at work. What data did you use to solve the problem? How did you identify the data, and who did you work with to implement the solution?
  • Customer Relationship Building
Think about a time you had a customer with very complex needs. How did you work with the customer to understand their needs and ensure they were met?


As you can see, any competency can be measured using a behavioral interview question, which will allow you to better understand your candidate’s experience and thought process. As you listen to their answers, be sure they are providing you four key pieces of information in each response:


  • A description of the Situation
  • Detail surrounding the Task at hand within the situation
  • The Actionthat they took to move forward
  • The Result of their action (including, if applicable, what they may have learned or might do differently next time)


Because of the structured format of these answers, behavioral interview questions are sometimes referred to as STAR questions.


Once you have your questions written, create a scale to assign weight to each question, to assist you with your evaluation later.


4. Conduct your interviews


Continuing the “structured” format of these interviews, ensure that the interview itself is structured, beyond the interview questions. Each interview should have consistency in the interview panel, information provided to the candidate, and any additional communication or resources provided. If possible, try to schedule the interviews at the same time of the day to ensure there is no unintentional bias in scoring due to a comparatively stressed or tired interview panel.


5. Evaluate and recap your interviews


Allow your interviewers to independently assess the candidates using the assigned scale to avoid groupthink. Ensure this is done as quickly as possible following the interviews, while the experience is still fresh. Shortly thereafter, schedule a recap meeting to compare findings. Did the interview panel agree on the results? Use the data from the process to arrive at the best decision for your organization.


While this may seem like a lengthy process, it should be similar to an unstructured interview process, but with built-in tools and framework to assist with your decision process, which can be particularly helpful if you’re making your decision with a team. If you are using an ATS, you may have the ability to set up customizations within it to align very closely to your process, assisting you in your evaluations, candidate communications, and final decisions. Regardless of your method, following a structured interview process will assist you in finding the best candidate for your position as efficiently as possible.

Photo credit – Photo by Linda Eller-Shein from Pexels

Why Business Owners and HR Professionals Alike Need COO Skills to Drive Continued Success

Why Business Owners and HR Professionals Alike Need COO Skills to Drive Continued Success

Organizations today are faced with compounding challenges: staff resigning at unprecedented rates, extreme competition for new talent, an ever-evolving world of compliance and regulation, an agile market of technology, supply chain challenges stretching across ranges of industries, and more. What these challenges come down to is that most organizations are forced to do more with less. Each individual within an organization is being asked to stretch to the next level of development, and fulfill a plethora of “other duties as assigned”. While the traditional approach is for HR to be the facilitator of these assignments, more forward-looking organizations have realized that HR should be the star-player – filling their own “stretch assignment” by fulfilling the organization’s operational needs from within their own role.

Even a decade ago, Deloitte published a report on the emerging role of the HR COO. At that point in time, they foretold: “In the months and years ahead, more and more CHROs will embrace the HR COO model as they strive to crack the code for operational excellence in HR service delivery. Recognizing that even the best people cannot excel in a sub-optimal operating model, they will make the call that only leaders can make — to change the operating model of the HR organization to harness the power of how.”

In the years that have passed, more organizations have embraced the approach, and key HR leaders have seen the value in supporting their organizations through taking a broader, more operational approach to leadership. Below are four key COO skills that will support any HR professional in better serving the operational needs of their organization.


1. Visualize Problems and Solutions

A strong operational leader needs to be able to visualize not just the problems of the organization, but also the solutions. An organization’s HR leader has a perfect perspective for this, as they already have a full understanding of the company’s structure, talent, roles and key objectives. Taking the role one step further merely requires the HR professional to get involved in the challenges in other areas and ask questions. Their unique perspective and understanding of the full organization will allow them to visualize the problem from a high level view, and help articulate a practical solution that others may not see.

2. Use Data to Drive People Operations KPIs

HR professionals cannot be afraid to learn the numbers driving the organization. While it is appropriate for the controller to be in the driver’s seat here, the HR professional must work closely with the finance team, understanding the budget and the financial statement to use key data to make decisions. Without a personal understanding of this data, they’ll always be relying on someone else’s recommendations, rather than empowered to wholly make their own people operations decisions, setting the appropriate KPIs for their organization.

A few examples of KPI data that is important to track, analyze and use are –

1. Turnover/Attrition Rate
2. 90 day quit rate
3. Employee engagement index
4. Training Impact Score

These are just a few examples of KPI’s. Keep in mind there is a difference between leading and
lagging KPI’s!

3. Create, Develop and Manage Systems

While technology may have a separate home within the organization, once again, the key HR leader that wears an operational hat must truly be involved in systems-related decisions. When implementing a new system, the HR leader is in the driver’s seat. If a system is already in place, the HR leader should be in-tune to the needs of its users, recommending development needs, and ensuring it is well-maintained. Again, if the leader is relying only on the expertise of another team, they are forgoing the chance to truly own their own decisions for the organization.

4. Analyze the Operations of the Business

In all circumstances, HR should be a key business partner to the organization’s executive team. This is critical not only to the success of HR, but to the success of the organization. Involving HR in operations analysis benefits HR by:

● Shining light on talent management needs
● Allowing the opportunity to recognize top performers
● Gaining insight into individuals who may be flight risks
● Recognizing functional or organizational issues that may need restructuring
● Recognizing employee relations issues that may need attention

Well beyond those benefits, involving HR in operations analysis benefits the organization by:

● Gaining a new perspective on key business issues
● Ensuring that there is an “unbiased” voice at the table, who does not represent a particular department or product
● Allowing for holistic solution finding that incorporate all areas of the organization
● Having a voice at the table who truly understands the talent of the organization, and can offer recommendations to fill short-term talent needs for special projects or initiatives

5. Gain insight on the P&L

There are many reasons why it is beneficial for an HR professional to not only familarize
themselves with financial statements, but also make sure that People Operations expenses are
tracked and measured as well. Some of the key financial benchmarks that can be applied to and
visualized are –

● Talent and Recruitment Expenses
● Training (includes onboarding training and ongoing training)
● Labor cost (includes the cost of workers’ compensation)
● Overtime – It’s important to distingish if your overtime is due to unfill position or increased absences that require other team members to fill in, or if the overtime is driven by business growth that is stretching resoruces and capabilities.


Overall, HR professionals that “stick within their own box” of HR are not serving their own interests, or the interests of their organization. The more that HR leaders can gain a broad perspective and a larger role as a key partner in the business needs of the organization, the more the organization is sure to benefit.

The Top 6 Reasons to Outsource Your HR Functions

The Top 6 Reasons to Outsource Your HR Functions

According to research firm Technavio, HR outsourcing will grow at a rate of nearly 9% over the next four years. As a leader or HR professional within an organization, this may seem surprising. HR is a critical enterprise to the organization, shouldn’t that mean it needs to stay in-house? The answer, as many businesses are now finding, is not necessarily.

There are many reasons why you might consider outsourcing your HR functions, or some portion of them, to a trusted partner. Read on to see our top six.

1. Gain access to a full team of professionals

The number one spot is a clear frontrunner: assuming you select an experienced trusted partner, you’ll be gaining access to a full team of professionals with wide-ranging expertise in human resources functions. Depending on the size of your organization, you may be operating with an HR team of one – or worse, an “operations” expert who is tackling the jack-of-all-trades functions including HR alongside accounting, budgeting, legal guidance, and anything else viewed as an administrative burden. When outsourcing your HR functions, you’ll tap into a wealth of knowledge that you previously lacked, and new experiences to draw from.

Within your organization, you may only need to hire once every few months; you may rarely need to navigate more complex functions like leaves of absence paperwork, international payroll, or legal concerns. What that means, put simply, is that even if your top performer is handling these functions, they do not have expertise in them. It is likely that unusual hiring scenarios or employee concerns may be unprecedented more often than not. When outsourcing, you’ll be working with HR professionals who have seen it all – because all they do is process critical HR transactions, they have seen every unique example of each one, and will be well-equipped to step in when it occurs at your organization.

2. Gain confidence in your compliance with legal and federal guidelines

Again, your organization’s well-meaning catch-all administrative expert may do the best they can, but they likely won’t be as well-tuned to the industry as a team of HR experts. When outsourcing, you can stop trying to keep up with email subscriptions and newsletters to tell you about pending regulation changes – your external HR partner will not only be accountable to keep you informed and compliant, but will likely be aware of any changes as soon as they occur.

3. Gain access to top-of-the-line HR technology

Staying informed on ERP technology trends is a lofty goal; implementing them in your organization is a much greater challenge. While negotiating your outsourcing agreement, you may consider seeking information on the new partner’s technology stack and how it compares to yours. If you find theirs to be more advanced, it may be worthwhile to see if there are licensing opportunities to allow your employees access to self-service functions and other HR needs within their tool of choice, improving the employee experience.

4. Gain access to a new trusted business partner

As you are hopefully already aware, an HR expert is more than just an I-9 and payroll form processor. Just as is true for your internal HR expert, an outsourced HR team has the potential to become a trusted business partner, providing you wide-ranging feedback and shaping your business processes across the organization. Depending on the structure of your outsourcing agreement, your HR partner can be truly embedded in your business, and will serve as a new advisor and a fresh perspective as you make critical decisions moving forward.

5. Gain a new strategy to reduce risk

While this ties into several of the benefits already mentioned, it is worth discussing as its own separate benefit because it is top of mind for so many leaders. As you can imagine, many of these benefits will reduce your overall risk. Gaining the expertise of a team of experts, relying on their understanding of legal regulations, adding a fresh perspective to your business, and even gaining new technology can all reduce your risk. However, even more directly, depending on the structure of your agreement, your new partner may now shoulder some of the risk by performing some of your HR functions, especially if you indicate specific metrics in SLAs that the partner agrees to meet. These stringent standards will ensure your HR processes continue to be performed with consistency and quality as your team expects.

6. Gain the time you need to prioritize your business

At the end of the day, outsourcing your HR function allows you to focus on your core competency: driving your actual business product forward and leading your team. Relieving your team members of the time spent on day-to-day HR processes will allow them time to be repurposed to other business-critical needs.

While the prospect of outsourcing a critical function such as human resources may seem unorthodox, there are advantages worth considering for any organization. Take the time to consider the state of your human resources team and function today. How strong is it? What other critical functions are they also performing for your organization? How much expertise do they have in unique HR use cases? Depending on your answers, you may find that a high amount of value in exploring an HR outsourcing arrangement.

Employee Retention 101: Embracing Equity in your Workforce

Employee Retention 101: Embracing Equity in your Workforce

Welcome to our fourth and final installment of our Employee Retention 101 series. If you’ve caught our other Employee Retention posts, you’re familiar with the urgent need for employee retention based on an increase in resignations among many organizations’ top talent. You’ve also brushed up on some of our suggested strategies so far, including launching a talent enablement program, honing in on talent and development, and prioritizing truly effective performance conversations.

While the number of employee retention strategies you could choose to implement is likely as long as the list of your employees, we have chosen the few that are likely to be the most broadly effective; in other words, we’re prioritizing the most “bang for your buck”. So while we could certainly continue this series indefinitely (and we’d love to!), we’re ending it here with one final strategy: embracing equity in your workforce.

If you’re an adult human with access to the news, especially in the United States, but truly anywhere – you likely are aware that equity is top of mind for many, across races, religions, sexual orientations, gender, age and all other aspects of identity. Creating an equitable and inclusive workforce is a lofty goal – but moving in that direction is a minimum requirement for retaining your best talent, and one that requires full executive sponsorship, organizational vision, and accountability at all levels.

Promoting Equity through Hiring

A few statistics on the state of the workforce today:

Interestingly, despite these statistics, diverse companies actually perform better:


While it isn’t easy to create a more diverse hiring process, the first step is acknowledging the need to create a more diverse hiring process. There are many steps to increasing the diversity in your pipeline, and simply doing research into the possibilities is a create start.

  1. Create an internal diverse hiring task force to guide your process.
  2. Expand your hiring pool by recruiting actively among target audiences through conferences, networking groups, etc.
  3. Set goals that are appropriate based on your current workforce and your industry.
  4. Look into options for technology that may help you – but remember, technology comes with challenges too, so keep your HR staff close by.

Promoting Equity through Pay Transparency

According to a survey, 51% of adults would switch companies to one with greater pay transparency. What does this mean? That depends on the organization.

Some very progressive organizations, like Buffer, post salary information for all of their employees online publicly for anyone to access. This level of true transparency forces the company to be accountable for the difference in pay between any two employees in the company, since it may be questioned at any time.

Other companies may view pay transparency as telling their employees where they are within a certain pay grade, why they fall at that point in the pay grade, and what they need to do from a performance-perspective to increase their pay. While this is not quite “transparent”, since it does not confirm to the employees that their peers are paid equitably, if the pay scales are truly applied uniformly across the staff it can be effective.

It is widely known that women are paid less than men; while many factors contribute to this, one factor is that women are less likely than men to negotiate their pay and to receive a raise when they ask for one. However, according to Colorado State Senator Jessie Danielson, insight into their pay range helps prevent this effect to some degree.

The company PayScale provides a spectrum to guide organizations on a pay transparency journey.

Embracing Equity
  1. Tier 1: Company provides employee their individual pay information only.
  2. Tier 2: Company provides employee the market data that was used to determine their salary.
  3. Tier 3: Company provides employee additional information into their compensation structure, including salary ranges and parameters.
  4. Tier 4: Company provides employee additional information regarding individual factors for determining pay.
  5. Tier 5: Employee salaries are posted publicly.


Promoting Equity through an Inclusive Culture 

Once an organization has assessed their hiring and their pay transparency, it might be easy to consider the work complete. However, unfortunately, much of the hard work is still yet to be done. As we’ve discussed in other posts, culture is not built overnight and must be nurtured and developed. In this case, equity must be promoted through an inclusive culture.

Hiring diverse employees and paying them fairly will not build an equitable workforce until they are also treated inclusively within the organization. Who is invited to the table when key decisions are being made? If an impactful project is about to be launched, who decides the team members? How are they selected? Does the team vary from project to project?

If your organization relies on the same individuals for task after task, you are set up for several risks:

  1. Those top performers are likely to burn out.
  2. Other high potential individuals who are not included are likely to find other opportunities.
  3. Your organization is missing out on new and impactful ideas.

Ensure that you have a system in place to manage the skills within your workforce, so that when an opportunity arises, you can call upon the best team of people, instead of the usual team of people. Again, prioritize diversity from the top down, and monitor your progress.

Thank you for joining us through our Employee Retention 101 series. If you read each article, you should now have actionable tips to take back to your organization to:

  1. Launch a talent enablement program, including:
  • Effective performance management conversations
  • Powerful talent and development tools

2. Implement structured career planning

3. Promote equity in your workforce through hiring, pay transparency and an inclusive culture

Of these strategies, it is essential to first assess your talent pool and determine where you think your priorities lie. Who are your current top performers, and who do you think is at risk of leaving for other opportunities? What do you think is most likely to incentivize them to stay?

If you aren’t sure, oftentimes the best strategy is to ask – set up a focus group or 1:1 interviews. If nothing else, it will help your employees to feel valued and appreciated.

Based upon the strategies shared, we’d love to hear – what do you plan to implement first? How do you think it will impact your team?