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July 11, 2023

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New leaders are not being given sufficient training, research shows

New leaders are not being given sufficient training for learning and development in their roles, research has shown.

The research, commissioned by UK law firm Winckworth Sherwood, revealed 23% of employers do not provide any learning and development (L&D) to their new leaders and where organisations do provide L&D, 69% of HR leaders believe it is inadequate. 

The research also showed only a quarter of employers were found to be regularly refreshing leaders’ skills or providing L&D in key areas, such as leading change and digital skills.

Operator trainingReport co-author Louise Lawrence, Partner in the Employment team at Winckworth Sherwood, said: “In the current employment landscape, where recruitment and retention are some of the top issues for employers and employees alike, the topic of L&D is increasingly front of mind. However, it continues to face a number of challenges within organisations.  

 “Leaders at all levels need to recognise the value of L&D and the benefits it brings not only to individuals but also to the wider organisation. With so many L&D and HR professionals facing barriers to providing L&D, and a significant number of organisations not providing any at all, it is time to fundamentally review the role and importance of L&D within organisations. 

 “For leaders to truly develop, there needs to be a culture of continuous learning throughout the organisation. Rather than learning being purely event based, it needs to be part of a bigger development experience such as learning through the flow of work.  We would encourage employers to take a close look at their existing L&D offering and how it can be improved to have meaningful leadership development.” 

The research revealed the top constraints to providing L&D are time and finances – and a lack of buy-in from the leaders themselves.

It showed 72% of all employees estimate their employer could take more steps to improve their progression into leadership roles and only a third of organisations are providing leaders with training in equality, diversity and inclusion.

Continuous learning

 Report co-author, Will Clift, Senior Associate at Winckworth Sherwood, added: “The ability to lead does not come naturally to everyone and, in many cases, takes time and practice. This is why employers need to make sure they are providing adequate and effective L&D opportunities to help leaders feel equipped and supported in their role.  

 “Even if an individual has previous leadership experience or a personal interest in developing such skills, it is essential that the correct support is put in place so that they understand what is required of them to effectively lead in their particular organisation.  

 “From better business performance to improving organisational culture and employees’ wellbeing, there are a multitude of benefits to implementing L&D programmes. We hope the findings from this report provide valuable insights which will help organisations deliver more effective L&D for leaders, and better development opportunities for more junior staff.”

 The research also raised concerns that soft skills, such as interpersonal skills, are not being adequately developed and a lack of promoting employees into leadership roles in the first place.

Almost three quarters of those surveyed estimate their employer could take more steps to support their progression into leadership roles – broken down into 83% for those under 35 and 56% of those aged 55 and above. 

The survey was carried out by 1,008 employees and 500 HR decision makers.

Calls were made by those that filled it in for transparent career progression frameworks, honest feedback on performance and the ability to future-proof their role and develop new skills to become more agile in the workplace.  Respondents also wanted companies to develop a culture of continuous learning.


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