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How to Use Online Learning to Foster Leadership Skills in Your Organization

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If you’re at the head of an organization, you know how important it is to help those below you foster leadership skills of their own. Fostering your team’s professional development makes them feel more valued and helps things run more smoothly. Plenty of companies these days are using online training modules tomake that happen — there’s no reason why yours shouldn’t, too.

But putting together one of these online training modules can be a daunting prospect. Even giving input on the process can be challenging. Here’s what you need to know.

Make It Personal

Education can’t, and shouldn’t, be one-size-fits-all. Every learner is unique, and your training program needs to take that into consideration.

How can you create a training program that both meets the needs of your organization and caters to the individual goals and learning styles of each learner? Make sure information is presented in different formats, such as using a combination of videos and text to appealto different learning styles. Give learners the opportunity to set some of their own goals that can help them succeed in their own department.

Use Your Resources

Thanks to the wealth of professional development courses and online degree programs available online today, you don’t have to design your own training program and leadership courses from scratch. You can take advantage of resources like Lynda.com,EdX, Courseraor MindTools, all of which provide high-quality professional development courses and university courses onleadership, management and business topics. You might even find it worthwhile to offer your employees tuition reimbursement benefits to help them earn an advanced degree, such as a Masters in Educational Administration, an MBA or another relevantleadership degree.

Get Your Hands Dirty

Lots of people learn best by doing, and giving learners the chance to apply what they’re learning can help cement their new knowledge. Offer online simulations that give learners the chance to get hands-on experience in a low-stakes environment.

Remember, learners will make mistakes. Give them the chance to keep practicing until they’ve got it down. Mistakes should be viewed as opportunities to learn and should be addressed with corrective feedback, one-on-one support and constructive criticism.

Focus Your Praise

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 Speaking of constructive criticism, remember that vague, general praise for learners in an online training scenario can be less than helpful. Learners will want to know the specifics of what they’re doing right, and wrong. Make criticism easier to swallow by sandwiching it — offer some specific praise, then constructive criticism, then some more specific praise.

Integrate Social Media

Social media is for more than sharing pictures of the grandkids. You can use social media platforms to bring groups of learners closer together, especially when they’re geographically disparate. Supervisors and managers around the world can gather virtually via a socialmedia platform to participate in synchronous courses, share experiences andopinions, give insights and build relationships. You can use project management platforms like Slack or cloud services like Google Drive to foster collaboration and make training programs more interactive.

Be Ready for Emergencies

Employees can learn a lot from training programs, but no training programs can predict every eventuality. At some point during or after training, employees are going to need extra help to deal with a situation. Offer them the resources and assistance they’ll need to meet these challenges when they arise.

What does this kind of assistance look like? It can take the form of an online leadership manual, a forum where company leaders can go to ask questions and share tips or a blog filled withposts discussing the oddball scenarios that might come up after training. Mentorship relationships with more senior leaders are also valuable, and no online manual can replace them, but they shouldn’t be the only resource available. What happens if an employee needs a quick answer to a question? Give newly trained leaders the power to take matters into their own hands, so they don’t have to spend time waiting around for an answer before proceeding.

Online education can offer valuable tools for fostering leadership skills in your organization. Employees will appreciatehaving resources at their disposal to help them grow professionally, and whenemployees feel that their company is committed to them, they’ll be more willing to return the favor.

Sean Jacobson

I'm Sean, a former HR and business consultant providing you insights into the business world for Leader to Leader.

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