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Solving leadership challenges: what are the options?

Monday 16 January 2017

Professionals sitting round a coffee table talking

From reduced productivity, stifled creativity and damaged staff morale – you’ll know the negative impacts that poor leadership and management can create. Talented employees are more likely to leave if they are suffering from these impacts and it is highly likely that the people who do stay, are disengaged and demotivated.

Many organisations use recruitment as a solution (which can provide a short-term fix) but it is too easy for recruiters to focus on ideal leadership attributes that they want their corporate culture to convey, rather than finding people to suit the issues currently facing the organisation.

A more effective strategy is to look at more sustainable solutions, such as developing current managers and producing a pipeline to prepare high potential staff for future leadership roles. However, the challenge for L&D professionals is devise a solution that is low risk and likely to deliver the results needed to get buy-in across the business.

We’ve outlined below the advantages and disadvantages for some of the common approaches to leadership and management training, to help you think about potential options.

Training Type



In-house coaching and mentoring

  • You can choose mentor-trainee pairs that are a good fit
  • Mentors have first-hand experience
  • Trainees learn on the job while being in work
  • May slow down company productivity
  • May require uncompensated time commitment from experienced workers
  • Training cannot be consistent – some people will be more effective mentors than others

In-house training programmes

  • Highly contextualised training that can be delivered to suit organisational requirements
  • Can encourage greater cross-departmental team work, awareness and understanding of each other’s roles
  • You can choose a time, location and pace to suit you and the organisation
  • Often time and resource intensive, with large amounts of administrative work
  • Using internal resources alone could potentially pass on existing inefficiencies or perpetuate poor business practices.
  • Offers no networking opportunities and sharing of best-practices with learners from other organisations

Private training provider – classroom training

  • Provides an important ‘human touch’
  • Allows employees to work together, share ideas and learn from each other, as well as from their trainer
  • Subject matter experts are on hand to give on the spot practical help and answer questions
  • May slow down company productivity as staff will have to spend time away from their desks
  • Not everyone learns at the same speed, so this could either be particularly frustrating for fast learners who are being held back or hard for slower learners trying to keep up
  • Difficult and costly to train a dispersed workforce at scale

Online learning

  • It’s possible to scale training rapidly and reach a dispersed workforce
  • Students can learn at their own pace and access course content 24/7
  • It eliminates non-learning expenses of training, such as travel and accommodation costs
  • Learners can’t gain insights from other employees through group discussions
  • Lacks important hands-on and learning-by-doing component
  • May not be valued by staff; a common L&D challenge is improving the take up and completion of e-learning

Education programmes through traditional universities or business schools

  • Staff can learn theory as well as the application of leadership and management principles
  • Staff are more likely to buy-in to the training, due to the personal benefits they receive
  • University education is regarded as a strong option for higher-level management positions
  • There are geographical limitations and expensive travel and accommodation costs can occur
  • Time spent out of the office can be high, impacting on team and business objectives
  • It can be difficult or slow to scale this type of training


In all honesty, there is no perfect solution or one-size-fits-all approach. The weighing up of these pros and cons will depend on what challenges you face, what resources you have, and what you are trying to achieve.

The degree apprenticeship solution

By their very nature, degree apprenticeships offer a combination of the training types outlined above. New higher apprenticeship standards are real jobs with training (not the other way around), and a good learning provider can offer a blend of in-house training, academic study, on-the-job experience and mentoring.

Not everyone learns at the same rate, or prefers the same teaching methodology. If you’ve got a diverse workforce – which most organisations do – then a flexible and customisable delivery methodology will likely be important to you. Additionally, being able to deliver effective training to every layer of the workforce (from school leavers to executives) is a key factor in developing the skills needed to meet skills gaps, such as leadership and management.

If you are considering implementing apprenticeship programmes, then take a look at our Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship to see how you can increase leadership and management skills in your organisation.