Simon Ashton, Head of Learning & Development at Phoenix Leaders, an executive leadership and development consultancy based at The Club in Nicosia, Cyprus’ first private Members’ Club, spoke to Cyprus Mail about how leadership coaching is evolving, the forces that are shaping the industry and the need for individuals not only to adjust to the rapidly changing world around us but also to grow themselves.
Embracing Change and Adapting
It is often noted that organisations which are thriving in today’s changing business environment are those that embrace change and adapt their business procedures and practices. At the same time, major challenges and opportunities never cease to exist. Ashton argues that organisations should focus on a number of key areas as they move into 2020.
Firstly, increasing levels of employee engagement should be kept high on their list of priorities. In his experience, “a truly great businesses views employee engagement as part of its DNA and places it at the core of every process and procedure. This means that they must look after their workforce, ensuring that they are working in an environment that nurtures and gets the best out of the employees without pushing them to the brink”.
With the new year almost upon us, it’s time to set fresh goals. Organisations should take this opportunity to take a closer look at their workforce well-being strategies, ensuring that they fit into the wider corporate strategy that is championed by senior management and not just HR. Consequently, he goes on to say, the lines between mentoring, coaching, counselling and facilitation will be driven by a fast-moving world and increasingly sophisticated clients who know what they would like to gain from coaching.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making its mark in business, and corporations need to prepare their employees for the workplace of the future, or risk falling behind the competition. This means analysing and anticipating which employees will require more training and support than others. It also means focusing on developing the attributes that make us unique as humans; it is these human capabilities that will become more and more prized over the next decade. Being able to build relationships and possessing high levels of emotional intelligence, social understanding, as well as communication skills will become key differentiating factors as artificial intelligence and machines take over other tasks. As such, employers need to ensure that their teams are equipped with the skills needed to complement these technological advancements.
Additionally, organisations will increasingly be faced with the challenge of managing a remote workforce. Managers will have to learn how to manage remote teams and this requires a completely different set of skills. They will need to harness new technologies so as to build and maintain remote team communities.
- Learning and Development
Asked whether training and coaching are essential in this evolution, Ashton confirms and elaborates: “we will continue to see growing demand for training and development programmes, especially from Millennials who perhaps understand – better than older generations – the need to continuously develop their skills. And as result, Learning & Development (L&D) departments have been taking significant steps to integrate L&D into their business strategy, creating a cross-business culture that focuses on continual learning”.
However, he also argues that we should keep in mind that a recurring issue is the allocation of adequate resources towards this essential component of growth and productivity. In fact, many organisations still fail to view L&D as an investment that will give them a competitive advantage over their peers. Ashton stresses that businesses need to understand that L&D programmes do not need to be expensive or time-consuming to be effective. He adds that Phoenix Leaders regularly engages with clients to create bite-sized yet impactful leadership training programmes that an employee can readily absorb in only a few sessions, built around their busy working schedules.
- The Business Environment
Taking this idea further, Ashton provided insight into what companies should have in mind when preparing their employees to navigate the business environment. “To survive in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment, organisations should recognise that leadership development should not be restricted to the few at the top of the food chain. Training and development must focus on current as well as future management staff, providing them with the right balance of cognitive skills and soft skills. These include developing a growth mindset, building resilience at an individual, team and organisational level, fostering healthy, productive relationships and developing critical thinking and creative problem-solving capabilities”.
- Trends in Cyprus
So what shall we expect to see in Cyprus in the next 2-3 years, in terms of trends in coaching and HR? Ashton notes that next year the generation known as Millennials will comprise half of the workforce, with this percentage rising to three quarters by 2025. Naturally, companies should focus on understanding the expectations of the employees of this new generation. They should focus on recognising and understanding the different work-life balance expectations of Millennials as well as their different understanding of a career path and career progression compared to previous generations. It’s important for businesses to understand these differences and to be open to different ways of thinking across generations.“For me however, wellness and wellbeing will be a key area that will receive greater attention from businesses here in Cyprus. Cyprus has admittedly been slower to acknowledge this area of HR compared to other European countries – especially Nordic countries. However, there has already been some progress and I strongly believe that over the next few years we will see more companies realising the benefits of tackling the stigma of stress and mental health in the workplace. Consequently, companies will start implementing a more comprehensive approach to employee development,” Ashton concludes.