How to Build a Leadership Culture
By Dominique Jones
"Everyone deserves to work for a great leader."
This is an internal mantra that has helped cement leadership development into Halogen Software’s corporate culture over the past 15 years. With the recent growth of our company, there is a real business imperative behind how we develop leaders. We need to build our organizational bench strength to ensure the continued success of our company, because it is our people who are our lasting competitive advantage.
It is a statement that is easy to make but a lot harder to back up. Everyone wants to work for a great leader, because people want to feel connected to the work they are doing. Great leaders have that ability to clearly show employees how their work matters. It is important to help employees set and manage personal commitment that tie back to the larger organizational priorities so they understand how the work they are doing contributes to the organization’s success. Yet, how do you create a workplace where leaders can develop the skills to help employees make this connection?
It does not happen overnight, and it certainly does not just “happen.” For Halogen Software, an HR talent management software company, creating a strong leadership culture has been built around three key objectives:
- improving our talent acquisition process,
- identifying emerging leaders, and
- developing existing leaders.
Begin at the Beginning: Talent Acquisition
To create a leadership culture, you need a solid talent acquisition process. The old-school method was to cast the net wide and whittle down the applications to a few that look good on paper. The new way? Ensuring people know your brand and what your organization stands for so you attract talent that will be a good fit.
We are striving to do this in various ways:
Online talent community: We have worked to build and maintain an intentional corporate culture. In fact, “We are serious about having fun. Seriously,” is one of our company’s cultural pillars. To help showcase our company culture, we created the #HalogenLife hashtag and encourage our employees to share examples of our culture on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We feel that company fit is very important when selecting new employees and using the hashtag gives people an inside look at what makes Halogen a great place to work.
Customized cultural assessment tool: Prospective employees may have decided they would be a great addition to our company, but we want to make sure we are the right place for them. We have a custom-developed cultural assessment tool that poses a series of questions to determine if a candidate fits our culture. When candidates align with our company culture, they are likely to be more engaged in their roles, stay in those roles longer, and potentially move into a leadership position. This approach to engagement, backed by research, is consistent throughout top companies worldwide. According to the Brandon Hall Group’s Performance Management Study, companies that invested in ongoing performance management practices focused on coaching and feedback experienced the following business results:
70% reported increased revenue
72% showed a decrease in turnover
54% experienced improved customer satisfaction.
The Future is so Bright: Identifying Leaders
Remember when you were starting out in a new role or new company, and everything was new and a little intimidating? Our Brilliant Beginnings new graduate careers program is designed to help new grads learn the ropes, while benefiting from mentoring, training and development. The program helps new grads get insight into how their work contributes to the overall success of the company and begins the process of setting a development path for their career.
We also have a program designed to actively identify high-potential employees not currently in management roles. The Emerging Leaders Program places high-potential employees in a leadership talent pool. Participants are given formal and experiential training, as well as mentorship, to prepare them to assume future leadership roles in any part of the organization.
While programs like these are fairly common in larger organizations, they are highly innovative for Halogen, which has just over 400 employees. We are proud to say that since 2013, 75% of ELP participants have assumed leadership roles in the organization. We have also retained close to 100% of the emerging leader candidates.
Work with What You’ve Got: Nurturing Leaders
Of course, attracting talent with great leadership skills or leadership potential is only the first step. Ensuring your talent continues to grow and develop those skills is essential to having a strong workplace leadership culture.
We help employees expand their leadership skills in several ways.
Blended learning: Leaders can receive our content through tutorials, coaching workbook and resource kits, and “coaching pod” resources from mentors. Leaders can lean on these resources as they face various situations. Participants can then discuss what they’ve learned in groups with their leadership coach, and apply what they learned with their staff or with their peers. To stay accountable for their performance, the leaders report back to their coach and leadership pod to discuss and measure outcomes.
Adapting to change: Over the past year, our organization regionalized its go-to market strategy to cover North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, transforming a significant portion of its business operations along the way. This shift highlighted the need to continuously work to support leaders in developing the leadership competencies important to our business. As a result, we have realized the importance of going back to foundational leadership development. Since we are growing so quickly, it means we are continuously bringing in and developing new leaders.
- We focus on enhancing key competencies in:
- Inspirational leadership
- Business-based decision making
- Developing talent
- Organizational savvy/ judgment
- Innovative thinking
- Strategic vision
We recently shifted our employee performance management practice to put even more emphasis on ongoing feedback and coaching. Based on information from direct reports and multi-rater feedback, all of our employees, including our leaders, will be measured on behaviors and outcomes related to our core competencies, instead of numerical ratings.
This puts the focus on quality conversations with meaningful feedback and coaching. It also ensures HR sees the full picture – which includes the good and the bad. We believe this new approach will make us a better company, because employees will have coaching and receive timely feedback on their performance year-round, supporting them to achieve positive results on their commitments.
As a company committed to helping organizations win with talent, we are equally committed to developing our own workforce as a lasting competitive advantage. Strong leaders throughout your organization will enhance employee engagement and support employees in achieving their goals. It's important to intentionally create a culture that focuses on and supports both high performance and continuous development. We believe a learning-focused culture boosts engagement and prepares our company for a bright future – and it can do the same for your organization, too.
Dominique Jones is Chief People Officer at Halogen Software. She has over 15 years’ experience in the talent management industry both in Europe and North America. Dominique holds an M.A. Honours degree from St. Andrews University in Scotland, as well as the Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD) certification from the United Kingdom. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org