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Helping Employees Stand Out

Part of being in business means investing. Investing in projects. Investing in the stock market. Investing in people. More and more, companies are realizing that perhaps their biggest investment — and the one that will secure their future — is in employees.

Corporate training programs have always been important for succession planning, but now more than ever, with the average age of company leaders pushing toward retirement, developing leaders is key to future success. As Vice President of Talent for MMC Corp, Countywide Mechanical Systems' parent company, Craig Woodson has seen the value of internal training and echoes this sentiment. "A lot of leaders will retire in the next 5-10 years, and companies are realizing they need to fill those roles. Your people are the future of your company, and it’s up to us to create new leaders and to provide an environment in which they can grow and thrive. Taking care of our people, our talent, is most critical to our success."

Definition of Leadership

While recognizing career potential and leadership qualities is integral to many corporate training programs, the definition of leadership is changing, and companies are changing their approaches along with it. Many leaders are now being viewed based on their impact, rather than on authority or title, and this is opening doors to leadership training for more than those on the executive track.

"Our leadership participants are nominated by company presidents to participate in a year-long program that focuses on dealing with conflict, performance coaching, financial risk, and things of that nature. The training tackles the ‘emotional intelligence’ side of leadership and is something employees at all levels of our company can benefit from," said Woodson.

Collective Leadership

In addition to a changing definition of who is a leader, more executives are leaning on those under them, giving way to the idea of collective leadership — providing collaborative solutions that involve an entire team. This concept can be seen in the company’s Best Practice Groups. Comprised of employees from subsidiaries across the country, these groups meet to find better operational efficiencies and to identify areas where all companies can improve.

"Collaborating with our counterparts across the country has been invaluable to identifying and improving the way we operate. It is also beneficial because it provides yet another leadership opportunity for employees within our company," said Tom O'Sullivan, vice president of operations for Countywide.

Vertical Development

The last change in leadership thinking is the rise of vertical development. Traditionally, potential leaders are trained horizontally, or in a way that concentrates on a specific set of competencies deemed necessary for advancement. The evolution of training programs has resulted in people developing their own leadership styles rather than being told how they should lead. "We try to improve our curriculum each year," said Woodson. "We keep the information topical and use real-life examples to better equip our employees for different situations — we try to avoid ‘off-the-shelf’ training when possible."

Empowering leaders at all levels does require an investment — as well as a commitment — from those at the top, but companies that have embraced this concept are seeing it pay dividends. "Training at all levels creates opportunities for employees and sets them up for potential advancement. Given the tools, our people have a chance to succeed in many different capacities," said Woodson. "We feel passionate about investing in our people and recognize it is critical to the future of our company."