Strong organizational leaders go beyond management — they can adapt quickly, inspire employees and partners, and drive innovation and learning at every level within the organization. They are adept in cultivating relationships with and between employees while establishing strategic goals with a clear plan of action for implementation and execution. And they are prepared to tackle the logistics of mergers and acquisitions, implement new training programs, and revamp workplace culture.
At the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development, we prioritize training students to become leaders who are capable of managing and navigating organizational resilience. Because our students come from a cross-section of industries and backgrounds, we invite them to bring their problem or passion of practice into the classroom to find workable solutions. As a result, we’re in the unique position of observing trends as they are happening in real time.
Here are three trends we’re seeing when it comes to organizational resilience and leadership:
1. Artificial Intelligence and Technology
Five years ago, meetings largely took place in-person. Our tools of workplace communication relied heavily on email, and our performance management capabilities varied by department and technological capability. The COVID-19 pandemic completely upended that.
Suddenly, entire organizations needed to shift their business models and employee engagement portals to adapt to the global public health crisis. In response, we saw technology adaptations explode to meet the needs of now-remote employees conducting business from decentralized locations. While technology has always been a factor in workplace culture, it went from being a mechanism through which work is conducted to the mechanism for work to be conducted.
Leaders have had to reflect on what that means for employee engagement — does the role of technology enhance or detract from an employee’s investment in the organization? Do they feel as though their work is still meaningful? Is it allowing them to access different points of an organization, expanding their engagement? These are all questions that effective organizational leaders must consider as they continue to adapt to the changing nature of work.
2. Work-Life Integration
Employees are pushing up against organizational expectations of being treated like worker bees. Now, they want acknowledgment that they have lives outside of the workplace — and the associated flexibility needed to support those lives. As a result, we’re seeing a growing movement to create wellness initiatives within organizations, which may encompass support for physical and mental well-being, child care, and more. We’re also seeing employees advocate for remote work; increased vacation, sick leave, and parental leave time; and even sabbatical leave or gap years.
Another area that has been advancing in response to this trend is the push for greater training and development initiatives, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship and innovation. Aligned with a desire to know their work holds meaning and value, employees want to know they are being invested in for their own personal and professional growth. Consequently, we are seeing a rise in organizations cultivating chief learning officers and instructional design leaders, while implementing leadership coaching and mentoring programs.
And it’s not just in the workplace that we’re seeing this — we’re also seeing it within our students who want to ensure that what they’re learning is immediately connected to why they are in our classrooms. Recognizing employees and students as a whole person is another area that will be key for effective leaders to address when it comes to ensuring organizational resilience.
3. Global Citizenship
Similar to the shift in work-life integration, there is also a demonstrable movement to work for organizations that align with personal values — especially in the areas of social, political, and environmental topics. As a result, organizations are being pushed to consider more about what it means to be equitable, diverse, and inclusive and how they show up in the world.
Simultaneously, organizations are finding themselves limited in what they can and can’t do — and that extends to their employees as well. Consider states that have restricted abortion laws and how that is influencing the mass exodus of providers in those states. How can an effective organizational leader anticipate and navigate these challenges to continue to move their organization forward, create an environment that remains high-functioning and desirable for employees, and serve its community? These questions will be key considerations when it comes to thinking about organizational change management as well as talent development and management.
Organizational leadership and learning is ultimately about how people work, adapt, and shift — and how workplaces must adapt and shift to meet the requirements of the people working within them. It also means thinking about adapting for longevity and sustainability to ensure organizational resilience. Pursuing an organizational leadership graduate degree can help provide you with effective communication skills, an understanding of what motivates people to work, and the ability to develop powerful strategies for managing teams.
If you’re ready to tackle the challenges of how current practices can be further improved or changed to meet future needs, consider pursuing a master’s in Organizational Leadership and Learning or a doctorate in Human Organization and Learning from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Our exceptional faculty and robust curriculum are here to support you in becoming a more effective leader. To learn more about our programs, request information from a GSEHD admissions coach.