The Rise of the Mastery Learning Category: The Future of Leadership Work

Woman invested in her career on laptop as part of the rise of Mastery Learning

There is a new model of live, cohort-based learning for training the next generation of leaders throughout the employee lifecycle with a newly emerged category: Mastery Learning. Better suited to the needs of modern workers and organizations, it’s also revolutionizing the future of work itself. As the leading training solution for enterprises deploying live learning at scale, we happily shared our learning model and some customer impact stories with The Josh Bersin Company. This data was incorporated into their year-long research study on learning, development, and leadership for the modern workplace. The New Model of Live, Cohort-Based Leadership Development explores the highlights of this study. This report examines the future of work and the impact of live, cohort-based learning on leaders, managers, and workers for enterprise teams. We wanted to highlight a few of this study’s significant findings and themes. We’ll also give you access to the full report and some upcoming webinars at the end.

Currently: Flatter, Messier Organizations

Leadership training used to focus on people managers. There was an established hierarchy, and it was expected that employees follow orders from their superiors without question. But many forces have shaken the status quo. Today more than 80% of businesses operate as interconnected, semi-autonomous networks of teams. This empowers workers up and down the org chart to exhibit leadership even without a direct report. Many now view the non-management track as an equally worthy and respectable career path. These individual contributors also require quality leadership training. 

The new generation of “lean” and “agile” approaches to engineering, product development, and operations have grown in popularity. These require individual contributors to make more decisions and judgment calls than in days gone by. This means more emphasis on domain expertise and individual empowerment. That creates a need for leadership traits and skills to be disseminated and instilled in a broader workforce segment. This has prompted the rise of the Mastery Learning category. 

The Next Generation of Leaders are Honing Their Power Skills

Leadership training focuses on increasing productivity, performance, and quality. Therefore, they concentrated on bolstering areas such as execution, accountability, and innovation. But Bersin’s research has shown that the next generation of leaders needs a skill set that includes “softer” skills, now known as power skills. These power skills help them to better connect with, lead, and motivate their coworkers and colleagues. These include humility, forgiveness, mindfulness, and generosity – skills that previously received scant mention during leadership training. True leadership benefits just as much from empathy, patience, curiosity, and kindness as drive, time management, and teamwork.

In-house Learning and Development Can’t Meet Today’s Challenges

Human resources (HR) departments traditionally get tapped to curate, create, and deliver internal training. There’s still a role for HR to play when it comes to communicating company-specific policies and processes. But 21st-century training demands more than those internal departments can handle. A broader, more rigorous, and more frequently updated curriculum exceeds their bandwidth and expertise.

Today, 74% of high-performing organizations leverage external coaches or training professionals paired with collaborative learning for leadership development. These courses utilize the latest research findings, training techniques, and case studies to deliver exceptional learning experiences organizations need and employees desire.

This study found that organizations offering carefully designed, cohort-based training on Power Skills experience a measurable return on their investment. They report a 20% lower turnover rate. They can fill roles 23% faster. They also see 46% higher leadership quality than companies not offering this type of training.

download the new model of live cohort based leadership training report

The Future of Work is Building Leadership at Scale

We know leadership skills benefit rank-and-file employees as much as those in the C-suite. As a result, organizations must embrace a more holistic approach to leadership training. But that doesn’t mean enrolling entry-level workers in the same courses as seasoned executives. 

Instead, companies must establish the importance of a learning continuum. It must meet employees where they are today while helping them reach where they and the organization want them to be tomorrow. Employees at all levels should receive direct training with opportunities to practice and refine these skills. This enables companies to create a deep bench of skilled workers and a learning path for them as they rise through the ranks.

Just as important as a wide variety of training offerings is adopting a new cadence for receiving training. New hires must still get onboarded, and newly minted-managers need extra training. But the overall approach must encompass an employee’s entire tenure. Only offering occasional opportunities for learning and development won’t cut it.

Practical Concerns of Scaling Up Leadership Training

Few organizations have the budget or resource flexibility to offer live, in-person training from high-quality experts. Especially not for hundreds or thousands of employees regularly. This leads some firms to embrace self-paced training with an extensive library of on-demand content.

This may fit the learning styles of some highly motivated employees. But it seldom leads to widespread adoption, and the commitment to lifelong learning that we know creates optimal outcomes. More often than not, these courses remain underutilized. They’re grudgingly completed only when management makes it a priority.

So now we need our “Goldilocks” leadership training sweet spot. We must walk the line between the unrealistic overkill of a massive in-person training program and the barren wasteland of underused self-service options. In this case, the ideal middle ground is live, cohort-based training for mastery learning.
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Live, Cohort-based Training is the Answer to the Rise of the Mastery Learning Category

Companies adopting this approach see massive benefits throughout their organization. Their employees are 2.4 times more likely to build the skills and capabilities needed to enable career growth. They’re also 1.6 times more likely to allow employees to unleash their full potential. Not only does this create a more loyal and engaged workforce, but it also makes them 1.9 times more likely to innovate effectively.

This training format forgoes large classes with lengthy lectures for collaborative learning spaces. Instructors deliver their training materials but also interact with each participant. They answer questions and provide clarity. Trainers also facilitate dialogues between participants. They then work together in small groups to put theory into practice.

This approach is rooted in science and customized for the cohort in question. The training style keeps students engaged thanks to an interactive environment and relevant content connected to their current roles and future goals

Small cohorts assembled based on common learning goals create motivated groups of learners. As a result, participants are far more likely to pay attention, retain what’s presented, and complete the training with practical experience to prepare them for applying what they learn in the real world.

ROI of leadership training

The training subject matter itself isn’t just informational, either. The goal is to drive behavior change. This includes diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), well-being, change management, conflict resolution, receiving and dealing with feedback, and more. Companies providing employees with this style and scope of leadership training see their L&D dollars go much further. It enables more employees to take part. Plus, the total costs pale compared to bringing in experts for in-person sessions. The same goes for internally developing and delivering their curriculum and materials. 

And by eschewing a one-size-fits-all approach, training gets customized. Be it for specific teams, job roles, or even particular individuals needing to burnish their skills in areas of need.

Assessments and evaluations get incorporated into these offerings as well. This gives organizations a better picture of which skills employees mastered. It also identifies any remaining gaps that later training or reinforcement can address.  

Discover Even More of Mastery Learning

Hone is proud to be an innovator in building this Mastery Learning category. This research is essential, and we encourage you to read, download, and share it with your colleagues. We’ll also share insights via two upcoming webinars with Josh Bersin and Tom Griffiths. Register and watch here