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The Importance of Accountability in Leadership

A truly world-class organization has a performance imperative—a clear culture of individual accountability. A true culture of accountability is one that rigorously demands accountability from individuals at every level of the company. It’s not enough for certain teams or departments to have this culture while others do not. For an organization to perform to its full potential, every employee must feel personally accountable for their work and consistently deliver on their commitments.

When an organization lacks the individual and group accountability needed to achieve the desired outcomes, it’s your leaders who are the solution. Leaders set and deliver the vision to their employees in a way that not only explains why it’s important, but how they can contribute to it as individuals. Like any other organizational standard, if personal accountability is the expectation, leadership must model it themselves. Without this commitment from leadership, it’s unreasonable to expect that others will hold themselves personally accountable for their work.

The Gap Between Intention and Results

What is personal accountability? It is a commitment to following through on what was agreed upon—or, put simply, personal accountability is doing what you say you are going to do. Personal accountability goes hand in hand with trust; when people follow through on their commitments, they show themselves to be trustworthy. Likewise, when leaders show trust, people are more likely to want to live up to that trust.

Most people don’t intend to drop the ball or let their leaders down when they commit to something. In fact, most people approach their commitments in the workplace with the intent to follow through, and why wouldn’t they? It feels good to succeed. However, slipping deadlines and a growing list of tasks that just never seem to get done are all too common.

This scenario, where intentions are not translating into results, is a familiar one. There may be seemingly good reasons for this—competing priorities, a lack of motivation, an intense workload, and so on— but ultimately, it comes down to personal accountability. When viewed in this light, the explanations that are presented as reasons for failure become excuses for not following through on a commitment.

Of course, there are also legitimate reasons an individual might not meet the expectations that were outlined. It might not be possible in the given timeframe, they might not have the necessary skills, or the budget might not be realistic. These circumstances are avoidable, but it’s not exclusively up to individual employees to identify and communicate these challenges. Leaders and managers must also participate in a way that helps individuals follow through on their commitments. Closing the gap between intention and results will lead to greater personal accountability. Leaders can facilitate this in the organization by embracing a three-step process: defining a mutual understanding of the desired outcomes, assessing whether it is possible for the person to achieve the desired results with their current skill set, and getting their commitment to executing the agreed-upon plan. Let’s look at how to go about each of these three steps.

1. Achieving understanding: setting clear expectations

The first step in ensuring that assignments are reasonable is for both parties to have a thorough understanding of the expectations. Without this mutual understanding, the individual might fail to meet the desired standards, even if they are following through on their personal commitment.

When setting expectations around a particular assignment, include these three important criteria:

  • What is the expected outcome?
  • When is the due date?
  • How should the individual accomplish the expected outcome?

This conversation will be different for every individual. For example, a junior-level employee might need more explanation about how a certain task should be performed. A more senior-level employee won’t need step-by-step instructions, but can contribute more to the discussion about a realistic due date. Tailoring the discussion to each individual is essential when the goal is personal accountability.

In a fully developed culture of accountability, achieving understanding is a two-way dialogue. Employees feel empowered to ask questions such as, “How much time should it take me to complete this task?” And leaders know that they must be prepared with all of the relevant information before assigning a task or project. When accountability is the company-wide standard, individuals know that clear expectations set the stage for success.

2. Getting agreement: adjusting for roadblocks

Agreeing to complete an assignment is more than just a simple yes or no. It requires careful consideration of whether the what, when, and how of the task are possible. When making a personal commitment, it’s not fair to yourself or others to make promises you can’t keep. Even though it’s good practice to aim high and maintain strong standards, taking on assignments that can’t be delivered as expected will slow the project, impede progress, and hurt your professional reputation.

Before making a commitment or assigning a task, take the time to anticipate the obstacles that might arise and make adjustments accordingly. Follow these steps to help come to a mutual understanding and set a realistic goal:

  1. Look at the calendar and map out a realistic timeline.
  2. Talk to others on the team about their availability rather than assuming they can help; remember that they have made personal commitments of their own.
  3. Consider the knowledge and skill set necessary for executing the assignment and compare it against your own. You might have to factor in training or research time if there is a gap between what is required and your current abilities.
  4. Carefully evaluate the budget to determine whether it is realistic.
  5. Determine what other resources are required and make sure they are accessible.

All of these steps will help ensure that commitments are realistic and achievable. If you don’t take the time to do this evaluation and adjustment, you will inevitably encounter hurdles that will affect your ability to deliver on personal accountabilities. You can’t predict the future, but you can learn from past experience and thoughtfully apply those lessons to future commitments.


3. Taking action: leaders must be rigorous in their expectation

After confirming mutual understanding, accounting for potential hurdles, and adjusting commitments accordingly, nothing should remain in the way of delivering on an assignment. It is then up to leaders to demand personal accountability to see the project through.

To do so, leaders can measure progress along the way by checking in at previously agreed-upon points along the path to completion. This reinforces that the leader is expecting the promised outcome to be delivered on time and up to the previously discussed standards. Creating mini-milestones also helps individuals stay on track, especially for larger projects that might feel overwhelming. Leaders and employees can then work together to identify any necessary course corrections that will help individuals fulfill their commitments and stay personally accountable.

In addition to delivering on their own promises, there are certain behaviors leaders can display to promote accountability in the organization. When leaders recognize that a deliverable might not be completed as promised, this is an opportunity to provide support and coaching. What productivity or time management skills can be transferred to help an individual follow through on their commitment? What other adjustments might be necessary to ensure that the goal is met? By staying engaged in this way, leaders demonstrate the importance of personal accountability and show that outcomes must be delivered as promised.


Personal accountability is a hallmark of world-class organizations. To create a culture of accountability, leadership must demonstrate it themselves and demand it from others. In order for that demand to be fair, expectations must be clear and agreed upon, and leaders need to participate in the follow-through. All of these skills are teachable and can be honed over time with training and practice.

Individuals at every level, including leadership, can benefit from ongoing training. It’s important to remember that even if you have a strong commitment to personal accountability, you might need to learn how to coach others to do the same. Investing in leadership training equips executives, managers, and supervisors with the skills to help others achieve the highest standards of accountability.


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3 Performance Management Best Practices That Will Make You Better

Performance management best practices encompass so much more than a yearly review. A company with a strong performance management system facilitates the communication between leaders and employees, with an eye toward achieving both employees’ professional goals and the company’s business goals. Companies who understand the massive impact that a clear set of performance management best practices can have on employee and team performance will invest in their leaders. This will develop the all-important “soft” leadership skills needed for the manager to be successful in performance management.

What’s more, when organizational leadership puts an emphasis on performance management, it sends a message to both leaders and employees that professional development is an important priority. The message the organization sends is “we want you to invest in this company, and we know that for you to do that we must invest in you first.” As with all strategic initiatives, the directive for a strong performance management system must come from the top.

If your leadership is ready to ramp up its performance management system, here are three performance management best practices to keep in mind.

1. Provide Actionable Feedback

Not all feedback is created equal. Effective performance management relies on set clear standards for what managerial feedback should look like. Clarity, honesty, and transparency are essential. For feedback to be valuable for employees, leaders must feel comfortable speaking the truth about an employee’s performance—and they must also possess the skills to do so tactfully. During performance review sessions, however, the focus shouldn’t linger on how an employee may be underperforming, but how that employee can improve.

You may need to shift the mindset of some leaders who view performance reviews as “report cards” rather than roadmaps to success. Don’t limit feedback to review sessions, either. Help leaders adjust their feedback delivery for different kinds of situations—like giving more immediate feedback while an employee is working on a big project. This is especially important if you manage millennial employees, who greatly value more frequent feedback.

2. Don’t Make It Personal

Part of the reason performance reviews aren’t always as effective as they could be is because speaking the truth about an employee’s performance puts leaders in a pretty uncomfortable position. Discussions about poor performance are tough on both parties. To limit the discomfort—and ensure employees are getting actionable feedback—train leaders to deliver feedback in terms of employee behaviors, not characteristics. That way, employees don’t feel personally attacked during reviews.

Moreover, leaders should clearly draw the line between employee behaviors and their results (or lack thereof). It may be hard for employees to see the result of a project as a consequence of their behaviors, when other workplace factors—like constraining budgets or deadlines—are in play. It’s a leader’s responsibility to clearly articulate the consequences and benefits of employee behavior, which will encourage an employee to take accountability for their actions and results.


3. Invest In Training

Performance reviews are great tools for identifying employee behaviors that need improvement. How, though, will employee behaviors actually improve? Through training that focuses on instilling lasting behavior change. By implementing training that uses methodologies such as experiential learning, individuals learn by participating in hands-on, interactive learning scenarios that mimic the workplace. The key differentiator of this delivery method is that it builds conviction and confidence within employees to do things differently.

Just as vital, however, is training for your leaders. Invest in leadership training that equips leaders with the skills they need to help their employees succeed, like strong communication skills, adaptive feedback styles, and effective listening techniques. All too often, under-trained leaders become barriers to employee success. Change this narrative by investing in training for both employees and leaders that fosters mutual trust, accountability, and professional growth.

3 Performance Management Best Practices


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Giving Feedback to Employees: A Leadership Skill That Can Be Trained

Leaders have a tremendous influence on their direct reports, and one of the most critical areas for leadership success is being able to give feedback to employees, praise when it’s deserved, and coaching in the moment. However, not every leader will be able to do so successfully. This is a leadership skill that can be trained, honed, and perfected over time. For this reason and with over 30 years of experience providing leadership training, we believe training leaders to give employees feedback is imperative to the long-term success of the organization, the team, the leader, and of course, the employee.

Why Is Giving Feedback An Essential Leadership Skill?

Feedback Helps Employees Achieve Their Goals

One key characteristic of a good leader is that they are able to reach organizational goals by motivating others. Giving constructive feedback helps individuals grow by learning how they can improve and by reinforcing the activities they are doing well. This ultimately helps them achieve both personal and organizational goals.


Feedback Builds Trust Between the Leader and Employee

Although it can initially be challenging, when an employee and supervisor become adept at giving and receiving feedback—it’s a two-way street—it builds a foundation of trust. When done well, the feedback process should not be anxiety-inducing for either party. It should be a mutually beneficial learning experience that helps individuals gain new insights that will help them improve performance.


Feedback Influences Employee Engagement

In companies where leadership knows how to give effective feedback, employees are more engaged. According to Gallup, “When employees strongly agree that their manager provides meaningful feedback to them, they are 3.5x more likely to be engaged than other employees.” Additionally, “Employees who receive daily feedback from their manager are 3x more likely to be engaged than those who receive feedback once a year or less.” A higher level of engagement is associated with better performance, lower turnover, and higher rates of employee satisfaction, all essential elements of staying competitive and attracting top talent.


Feedback Reinforces Individual Accountability

An organization – whether large or small, corporate or not-for-profit, complex or traditionally structured – cannot function to its fullest if individuals do not take accountability for their projects, tasks, and behaviors. Keep in mind that accountability is defined as a commitment to follow through on what has been agreed upon and to take ownership of the outcome. Feedback is crucial at reinforcing an individuals accountability to their commitment as it provides support, guidance, and direction in a way that builds confidence.

How Can You Train Leaders to Give Feedback to Employees? The Answer Is Experiential Learning

For leaders who are not well-versed in giving feedback to employees, the interaction can be stressful and uncomfortable, even in a training session. Fortunately, like any other type of competency or behavior, feedback skills can be taught and practiced until they become second nature. However, you can’t expect leaders to learn feedback skills on their own by reading management books. To become excellent at it, they must practice it.

Of course, practicing new feedback skills in the work environment is intimidating and potentially damaging if it’s not done well. This is why experiential training is an ideal way to teach leaders this vital leadership skill. Experiential learning takes participants out of the work environment and allows them to practice new skills in a safe space with no real-world consequences. By trying different approaches and immediately seeing the results of each, participants can learn what works, what does not, and why.

Well-designed experiential learning sessions close with a debrief, led by a skilled facilitator, that connects the concepts learned in training to real-life situations that participants face on a regular basis. The leader can then return to the workplace with the confidence to use their new feedback skills effectively.


Leaders at every level can benefit from learning how to give and receive feedback, but it is especially important for emerging leaders to gain these skills through training. Experiential learning is a training method that allows leaders to test their new skills and become comfortable with them in a way that does not impact their employees. Seeing the positive results of giving feedback in a training environment and learning how to do it most effectively through practice empowers new leaders to use their new skills on the job. This leads to stronger employee-manager relationships, higher performing teams, and more engaged employees.


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Teamwork in the Workplace: The Importance of Leadership

Discussions about teamwork in the workplace often revolve around a few central topics: effective communication, sharing a common goal, and solving problems. While each of these are absolutely essential in strong teams, one key often seems to be missing – Leadership.

We think of teams as highly democratic entities where everyone contributes equally to complete a project. However, just like the Presidents and Prime Ministers that guide the world’s great democracies, a leader is essential to team success. In fact, the team at Eagle’s Flight considers leadership one of the seven cornerstones of teamwork. Without a clearly defined leader, the whole team foundation will crumble. Here’s why teamwork in the workplace must start with strong leadership:

1. Team Leaders Keep the Team Accountable

It’s far too easy to dodge responsibility in a team setting, since you can “hide” among your sea of colleagues. That’s where a leader comes in. In a team setting, a true team leader takes full responsibility for the team’s final results. Since a leader has so much on the line, he or she is extremely motivated to keep team members accountable for the work.

2. Team Leaders Empower Team Members

Being a leader on a team isn’t about concentrating power — it’s about giving away power. Yes, team leaders are responsible for assigning tasks to the team. Even more importantly, leaders must trust the skills and expertise of other team members. Through trust, leaders empower teams to carry out assigned tasks in the way that they see fit.

Why is trust so important? When other team members see that the leader has put his or her trust in a colleague, they won’t try to undermine or question that colleague. Plus, studies show that employee engagement is closely tied to the level of freedom and ownership that individuals are given. If you want team members to be engaged and excited about the project, leaders must empower members by easing up the reins.

3. Team Leaders Simplify and Streamline the Decision-making Process

Teams can avoid the power struggles commonly found in “equitable” teams with leaders in place. In these “equitable” or “leaderless” teams, members actually compete to gain authority and assert dominance.
Team leaders also make the decision-making process far more streamlined, since they have the final say. Leaderless teams may get stuck on making tough calls when members can’t come to a consensus and there’s no “tie-breaker” to turn to. In the meantime, the entire project — and even teamwork in the workplace overall — stalls. Having a clear-headed colleague who’s clearly in charge simply makes teams simpler.

4. Team Leaders Keep Projects Moving Forward

It’s hard to keep a group of people focused, so having someone make it their mission to do so is crucial to team success. A designated leader will move past any hiccups by initiating conversations about potential problems and steering the team back on track during meetings that start to go off the rails.

How do leaders keep projects moving forward? They will:

  • Ensure all team members understand the project goal
  • Establish clear deadlines
  • Clearly define roles within the team
  • Describe how each role contributes to the project goal
  • Remind the team of the shared goal to keep the project on task

When members understand that the part they play on the team is critical to achieving the goal, they’re more motivated and engaged.


Team leaders are typically individuals who know the most about the project — which means they might not have extensive experience with leading. They might not even be the person with the most “senior” rank in the room. That’s why building in leadership skills exercises into your training on teamwork in the workplace is so important.

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5 Ways to Demonstrate Leadership Accountability & Ensure It in Others

Leadership accountability occurs when individuals reliably deliver on their commitments, showing others they can be trusted to do what they say they’ll do. Leaders further demonstrate accountability by taking responsibility for the outcomes of their actions and decisions and successfully transforming effort into results, whether in person or a virtual environment. As Phil Geldart, founder and CEO of Eagle’s Flight, explains in his book, In Your Hands: The Behaviors of a World Class Leader, leaders at all levels of the organization can demonstrate leadership accountability. Through their behavior and quality of decision-making, they can set the performance standard others want to emulate.

“Let the quality of your work and decisions be the gold standard against which the performance of others comes to be measured.”

“Gold standard” accountability is of such a high quality that others see it as the best possible combination of behavior and judgment, compelling others to follow it. It consists of performance excellence and the mastery of the key skills and behaviors necessary for any job. Drawing on some of the insights from In Your Hands, here are 5 ways to build “gold standard” accountability in leaders at every level of the organization.

5 Ways to Build Leadership Accountability:

Lead by Example

When individuals demonstrate accountability through their actions, they are setting the pace for leadership and performance excellence. They’re also showing others how to be accountable for doing what they say they’ll do. Leaders can be pacesetters and demonstrate accountability by exhibiting the following behaviors:

  • Discipline – staying on track and not getting derailed by competing priorities or desires
  • Integrity – being honest about the likelihood of delivering on commitments, and apologizing when something goes wrong
  • Execution – mastering new skills and behaviors and striving to achieve executional excellence

Develop Accountable Leaders

Training in specific skills and competencies can help leaders understand what it means to be accountable and which behaviors help to demonstrate accountability. By building accountability into your leadership development program, leaders at all levels will learn how to deliver on commitments and then see the importance of being reliable and trustworthy in the eyes of others. Leadership development can also help managers learn how to set and communicate expectations within variable work settings, and how to hold their direct reports accountable for the results they commit to.

Communicate and Share Information

Demonstrating accountability and ensuring it in others also involves sharing information and knowledge that will help others know how to behave in certain scenarios. Individuals learn by watching others and practicing desired behaviors, but they also learn from the advice and guidance of others who are already achieving “gold standard” accountability. For those who manage others, it is also important to communicate the importance of results, so that effort does not get confused with outcomes. A juggling act many have come to bear as they navigate a disrupted work environment, set by Covid.

Build Individual Understanding

At the outset of any initiative or activity, whether virtual or in person, it’s important for individuals to understand expectations, the resources and support available, and what they need to do to be accountable for their part. This helps to avoid the pitfall of over-committing and under-delivering. Some of the tools that can help support individual understanding of the need to be accountable include:

  • Mentorship and coaching – help individuals see different behaviors that can help them demonstrate accountability
  • Multi-rater assessments – show individuals how their own accountability (or lack thereof) impacts others
  • Team meetings – provide an opportunity for regularly reviewing and discussing the progress of everyone’s accountabilities and how they impact the team’s goals and objectives

Require Accountability

To ensure intention leads to actual results, ultimately individuals need to understand the requirement to demonstrate accountability. For individuals who manage others, it’s necessary to set clear expectations, and then ensure there is agreement that a commitment is doable and the goal is obtainable. Lastly, leaders need to insist on the delivery of the committed goal. They can provide support by setting up regular checkpoints to review progress, give timely feedback, and determine additional resources or support that may be needed.

Individuals demonstrate accountability every day—by delivering on commitments and showing in their behavior that they can be relied on to achieve results. When expectations are clear and individuals have the proper skills, knowledge, and resources to perform, they are more likely to show a greater level of accountability. With the help of leaders who model desired behaviors and leadership development and other training that teaches accountability, employees see the difference between effort and results, and learn to deliver both.

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The Difference Between Responsibility and Accountability in Leadership

Think back to a time when seemingly small decisions impacted thousands of people. Situations have ended with decreased profits, major transitions, and employee downsizing. You may have a government agency accusing one party of negligence and another stakeholder pointing their finger at independent contractors that were hired to complete a specific task that went completely wrong.

In these situations, it’s common to ask these two questions: Who was responsible? And who should be held accountable?

Accountability and responsibility are often used interchangeably, but these words have distinct meanings that separate them and their roles in the workplace. It is imperative that leaders understand the difference between accountability and responsibility if they want to move their organizations forward.

The Difference Between Accountability and Responsibility

Accountability and responsibility can’t be lumped into the same bucket. Although these two terms have some similarities, a few distinct characteristics separate them in the workplace.

Responsibility can be shared. You can work with a team of people to divide responsibilities. On the other hand, accountability is something that can be specific to an individual depending on their skill set, role, or strengths.

Responsibility is task-oriented. Every person on a team may be responsible for a given task that is required to complete a massive project. Accountability is what happens after a situation has occurred. It is how you respond and take ownership over the results. Even during the most uncertain times, true leaders hold themselves accountable for the results.

Responsibility focuses on defined roles, job descriptions, and processes that must be in place to achieve a goal. On the contrary, accountability is committed to the successful completion of tasks assigned to you and being willing to take responsibility for everything that happens as a result of the actions that were taken.

What Is Accountability in the Workplace?

Accountability is one requirement of an effective and influential leader in the workplace. It is defined as taking ownership to ensure responsibilities are achieved as expected. This means that leaders must clearly understand expectations before making commitments.

Accountability requires a mental shift in the workplace; leaders have to be willing to give up a followers’ mentality and focus their efforts in a productive way to ensure that they achieve results.

Accountability is one way to build trust in the workplace. People trust leaders who aren’t quick to blame others if things don’t go as planned, but who instead take accountability for their role in the consequences.

Companies benefit from leaders who are accountable because they are able to quickly identify problems and come up with possible solutions. When leaders are accountable, it inspires other leaders to exude the same traits. It’s important to demonstrate examples of behaviors that employees should follow, as this can prove to be an asset to any company because it can increase productivity.

Consequences of Leaders Who Lack Accountability

Leadership accountability is crucial to workplace success. Without it, an organization can jeopardize its current and future goals. When leaders don’t deliver as expected, the company may encounter a variety of losses. The company may also incur expenses because they had to hire someone else to do the job or had to use additional resources in order to deliver the final product.

Another inevitable consequence is that companies put their customer service on the line. Leaders who are not accountable for their actions, and in turn their consequences, can significantly impact the customer experience. Lack of accountability diminishes the level and quality of customer service. It also impacts how customers are treated, which can lead to negative reviews, dissatisfied customers, and shaken customer relationships.

Employee engagement can also drop. Some leaders were taught or have adapted to playing the blame game instead of taking ownership for their mistakes. When leaders don’t take responsibility for their actions, and how they affect others, their employees will take cues from this. Whether their engagement is affected by the blame game or from a lack of a model leader, it will inevitably affect employees’ performance.




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The Rise of the Employee Experience

A Brief Introduction

Retaining and attracting top talent is quickly rising to the top of financial services organizations priority lists for the coming year and beyond. This may be in part due to the fact that an astounding report by ServiceNow showed that only 28% of Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) in the financial services industry believe that their workforce meets business needs. This is compared to 42% of CHROs in other industries.

If you’re feeling the weight of this pressing issue in your organization, start here with our eBook,

Retaining and attracting top talent is quickly rising to the top of financial services organizations priority lists for the coming year and beyond. This may be in part due to the fact that an astounding report by ServiceNow showed that only 28% of Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) in the financial services industry believe that their workforce meets business needs. This is compared to 42% of CHROs in other industries.

If you’re feeling the weight of this pressing issue in your organization, start here with our eBook,

Retaining and attracting top talent is quickly rising to the top of financial services organizations priority lists for the coming year and beyond. This may be in part due to the fact that an astounding report by ServiceNow showed that only 28% of Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) in the financial services industry believe that their workforce meets business needs. This is compared to 42% of CHROs in other industries.

If you’re feeling the weight of this pressing issue in your organization, start here with our eBook,

Retaining and attracting top talent is quickly rising to the top of financial services organizations priority lists for the coming year and beyond. This may be in part due to the fact that an astounding report by ServiceNow showed that only 28% of Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) in the financial services industry believe that their workforce meets business needs. This is compared to 42% of CHROs in other industries.

If you’re feeling the weight of this pressing issue in your organization, start here with our eBook,

Retaining and attracting top talent is quickly rising to the top of financial services organizations priority lists for the coming year and beyond. This may be in part due to the fact that an astounding report by ServiceNow showed that only 28% of Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) in the financial services industry believe that their workforce meets business needs. This is compared to 42% of CHROs in other industries.

If you’re feeling the weight of this pressing issue in your organization, start here with our eBook,

Wondering what a partnership with the Eagle's
Flight team could mean for your training and
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The Shift to Virtual Learning: Scalable
Training for Modern Workforces

A Brief Introduction

This comprehensive guide addresses everything you need to know about creating a robust virtual learning program for your organization to ensure a workforce that is prepared to meet the opportunities of today and in the future.

"The Rise of the Employee Experience: How
Legacy, Corporate Culture, and Rapid Change
are Impacting Talent in Financial Services."

Key Learnings

Chapters cover topics such as:

  • Workplace trends influencing the shift to virtual learning
  • Pitfalls to avoid when building a virtual learning program
  • How to ensure learner engagement in an online setting
  • Popular competency development topics for virtual learning
  • What to look for in a virtual training and development partner


Chapter 1

Workplace Trends Influencing the Shift to Virtual Learning

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Chapter 2

Why Do Virtual Learning Programs Fail?

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Chapter 3

Why Does the Learner’s Journey Matter?

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Chapter 4

Popular Virtual Learning Topics

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Chapter 5

What to Look for In a Virtual Training and Development Partner

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Chapter 6

Implementing Virtual Learning That Truly Changes Behavior

Explore Chapter >


We’re in the middle of a work revolution and the path to organizational success is more complex than ever. Organizations face challenges ranging from rapidly advancing technology to increased competition, to radical shifts in customer expectations, which are forcing organizations to rethink their approach to talent management and the skills their employees need.

For survival, and even competitive advantage, organizations of every size and in every industry must upgrade employee knowledge and skills to meet the challenges of a workplace that is changing and they must do it fast. A 2018 World Economic Forum study estimates that by 2022, no less than 54 percent of all employees will require significant reskilling and upskilling, primarily in areas such as analytical thinking, innovation, and skills that enable employees to keep pace with digital transformation.

Unfortunately organizations have largely been unable to keep up with the rapid pace of change. Even those with extensive organizational training and development plans and budgets struggle to adequately adapt given the ruthless pace and scale of change. As a result, upskilling has faltered and the gap between the skills needed to succeed, and the actual bench strength of an organization’s workforce has widened.

The question then is, how do you upskill your workforce quickly and effectively? In this guide we will explore how to do just that by building out a virtual learning strategy that drives organizational success.

Chapter 1
Workplace Trends Influencing the Shift to Virtual Learning

Ongoing shifts in the nature of work and how it is performed require new ways of approaching employee learning and development. In fact, organizations and employees alike recognize that training is not only essential for individual growth but also necessary for keeping up with the changing world we live in. A Deloitte study found that 67 percent of employees believe they must continuously reskill themselves just to stay in their current career.

Fortunately, many organizations understand the benefit and need to upskill their employees and are looking to virtual learning as a way to do that in addition to traditional methods and in-person training. In a 2020 report by LinkedIn, it was found that 53 percent of L&D professionals surveyed expect to spend more on online learning globally this year. Some of the specific workplace trends that are driving the increase in virtual learning solutions include:

Remote Work and Dispersed Regional Offices
While remote work has been on the rise for years, COVID-19 dramatically and irreversibly changed where and how we work. Unless it was absolutely necessary to be on the frontline, overnight employees started to work from home. Rather than remote work being the exception, it became the new normal. For many leaders it may have acted as a living case study, showing them that it is possible for their employees to be just as, if not more, productive outside of the office. As such, many expect this trend to stick around after COVID-19 dissipates now that the workforce has first-hand experience working remotely.

Remote work and regional offices demand organizational structures to flex with the needs of the workforce through advancements in technology that enable mobility and flexibility. To capitalize on these benefits and stay competitive, many companies are putting a greater focus on organizational design and restructuring into networks of teams. Rather than staying in departmental silos, these teams are more project-oriented and come together often on a temporary basis to work on specific tasks. These new structures require updated virtual training programs to accommodate leadership development, performance management, and skills training in an evolving corporate environment.

Employee Preferences
A desire to learn and grow is nothing new, but research points to a shift in how and when employees want to learn. For example, the 2018 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report found that although 94 percent of employees said they would stay employed longer with a company that invested in their career, they want a greater say in how, when, and where they learn. Of the employees surveyed in the study:

  • 68 percent said they enjoy learning at work
  • 58 percent preferred to learn at their own pace
  • 49 percent want just-in-time learning when they need it

To address employee learning needs and preferences, you’ll need to look beyond traditional training and incorporate other training methodologies and delivery options. Experiential training is a great example of this as it’s an interactive methodology that allows learners to learn by doing, not just watching, listening, or reading, which appeals to many types of learners. Online learning that is self-directed is also highly valued and desired by employees as it grants authority to the individual over when and where they learn the required content.

Rapid Changes
Most of the time, the future unfolds gently. However, today we’re faced with a world that changes seemingly overnight and puts all previous business assumptions in question or out of date. For some organizations this has forced them to pivot the way they work, or in some instances, their whole business, to meet today’s reality.

According to the IBM Institute for Business Value, 60 percent of executives globally confirmed they are struggling to keep their workforce current and relevant. Employees and leaders alike require a new set of competencies and need to obtain them quickly in order to be successful in their roles. To accomplish this, online learning is an ideal option for training large groups of employees, very quickly. As everything is done virtually, there is no need to roll out the training in small groups in a given location. No matter where employees are located, online learning allows them to join in from wherever they are to obtain the new skills they need.

Employee Engagement
No matter if your employees are in the office or working from home, the opportunity for learning and development remains a top driver of employee engagement, as proven in numerous research studies. For example, a Udemy Study found that 80 percent of employees said that learning new skills would make them more engaged at work. In another example, a business author and researcher conducted a regression analysis of over three million employee engagement surveys and found that learning and development drives employee engagement, particularly when the learning is aligned to employee aspirations and supported by leadership.

Younger Generations
There are currently four generations in the workforce: baby boomers, Generation X, millennials, and the first of Generation Z. The oldest millennials, born between 1981 and 1995, are now in their late 30s and have begun to move into key positions of leadership. While Generation Z, those born between 1996 and 2010, are entering the workforce as digital natives. As a result of this dramatic change in workplace demographics, learning and development preferences and expectations have also changed.

In a Gallup survey, 59 percent of millennials said opportunities to learn and grow were extremely important to them when applying for a job. By offering learning and development opportunities that appeal to all generations now in the workplace, companies will be on better footing to attract and retain the very best. For example, millennials tend to be attracted to learning and development experiences that:

  • Incorporate digital technology
  • Build upon their leadership potential
  • Include interactive, social learning experiences

Importance of Collaboration
Employees today spend an average of 14% of their workweek communicating and collaborating internally. They are also on twice as many teams as they were five years ago. Regardless if this is due to a rise in remote work, organizational complexity, or globalization, the need for effective collaboration skills and tools has never been greater.

In fact, a study conducted by McKinsey found that by implementing social technologies, companies have an opportunity to raise the productivity of high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals, by 20 to 25 percent. But implementing new technology will not be enough. Companies must remember the people who will be using it in their day-to-day lives. These members of your workforce will greatly benefit from collaboration and teamwork training (whether delivered in-class or virtually) that teaches them how to communicate effectively, share resources, remain focused on a unanimous goal and define subgroups.

Chapter 2
Why Do Virtual Learning Programs Fail?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” Yet determining what the exact knowledge needed is, researching providers, gaining buy-in and support, and integrating it into the workload can feel like too great an investment for some, especially when times are tough.

Ultimately, this can be a costly mistake, as studies have found that those who make the investment in truly effective training and development experience:

  • 218% higher income per employee
  • 24% higher profit margin
  • Reduced turnover and greater loyalty

Improved engagement (Approximately $500 billion is lost every year due to employee disengagement)
So, whether your reason for implementing virtual learning is to develop specific competencies within your workforce, or to support a strategic organizational initiative, the goal is for it to succeed so that your organization can experience both the tangible and intangible benefits. That begs the question then, why do so many virtual learning programs fail? Below we have listed five common pitfalls so that you can actively work to avoid them when building out your own virtual learning and development solution.

No Explanation on the Purpose or Benefit
It’s hard to care about something you don’t understand, and yet, employees often find themselves pulled into an online learning session with little to no explanation of its purpose. Employees today crave a deeper understanding so they can identify the purpose of training and see how it impacts their overall success at work. In light of this reality, it is important to ensure your virtual training program is set up to introduce the purpose of the training beforehand. Doing so will make it infinitely easier to engage employees and leaders as the training progresses. To do this effectively means creating a training initiative that is directly applicable and practical in employees’ day-to-day lives.

Focuses Only On Knowledge Transfer
Many online training and development programs focus solely on knowledge transfer. Providing knowledge is an intellectual activity, with the goal of informing participants of how or why to do something. Many people who have participated in virtual training have experienced stilted presentations, passive videos narrated by a mechanical voice, overly academic articles, and endless quizzing. What’s worse than being boring and stilted, is the fact that this kind of online training is just not effective for the majority of the population. That’s because these passive eLearning programs do little to change participant behavior long-term. Employees may learn about valuable new skills through passive forms of training, but passive consumption of knowledge doesn’t guarantee application.

On the other hand, virtual learning programs that have participants personally and actively involved in their own learning, encourage an intellectual understanding of the new behaviors to develop quickly. Once this understanding has started to occur, the virtual training must shift information to competence to solidify understanding and build conviction to take the knowledge learned and actually use it. By providing time in the safety of the virtual classroom to practice the new skills and tools, ask questions, and work with colleagues, employees will emerge both competent and confident.

Lacks Live Learning and Active Participation
Passive, self-guided learning where participants listen, watch, or read information, has a few use cases it lends itself decently to, such as technical training. Unfortunately, it typically has very low retention rates, as most people only remember about 10 percent of what they read or hear. Ultimately, this puts your online learning investment at risk.

A better option of virtual learning is known as synchronous training, which “occurs when learners and instructors are interacting in real-time, typically through delivery platforms, remote labs, distance learning technologies such as video conferencing and chat, or collaboration and social learning technologies.” When participants have the opportunity to interact with the facilitator and their colleagues the collective learning increases in a way that cannot happen through passive, self-guided learning. Not to mention, a skilled facilitator can build conviction in participants that it is beneficial to change behavior and adopt the new knowledge, skills, and tools by using language and examples that resonate directly with the participants.

No Opportunity to Practice New Skills and Direction on How to Use Them On the Job
Virtual learning programs that don’t relate to the challenges employees face every day at work do not set participants up to successfully use their new knowledge on the job. For example, understanding the importance of active listening as a communication skill is not the same as applying that skill for oneself in a situation that mimics one similar to the workplace. When online training for employees does not provide an opportunity to practice new skills in real-time with the support of an experienced facilitator who can coach them in a safe environment, participants may be reluctant to use the skills at work.

Chapter 3
Why Does the Learner’s Journey Matter?

In the 2020 Workplace Learning Report, learning and development professionals named learner engagement one of their main challenges. With the shift towards remote work, increased workloads, and short attention spans, this may come as no surprise.

To solve this challenge, learning and development professionals must put greater emphasis on creating a robust, relevant, and immersive learner journey. From the moment pre-work is sent out to participants, to the weeks after training has occurred and everyone has returned to their realities, every experience your learners have must intentionally and strategically encourage engagement. Whatever this journey ends up looking like, it should be heavily influenced by the unique preferences of your learners. Fortunately, a study by LinkedIn found that talent development professionals are already changing the way they deliver training to better meet the needs of all learners. They are looking at increasing the usage of social, mobile, leader involvement, and self-directed learning opportunities to increase engagement, particularly with Millennial and Gen Z workers.

As you search for a virtual training company to work with, proactively look for information on the following four stages of an effective training program. If the provider in question has plans to engage your learners at each stage, then you are one step closer to finding the right partner for your needs and your audience.

Pre-Work and Self-Guided Learning
Unfortunately, pre-work gets a bad reputation. When treated as a “check the box” activity, pre-work can quickly fall flat in the eyes of the participants who have to complete it, learning and development professionals who have to mandate it, and leaders who have to make room for it on a busy day. Remember, first impressions matter and what you decide to send out as pre-work will inform a participant’s opinion of the rest of the training program, so make this count. The activities selected to complete before the live training begins should be relevant, relatively quick to complete and provide learners with the information they need to feel prepared. This is an invaluable opportunity to set the tone of the virtual training to come and get participants excited for what you have planned.

Training Modules or Sessions
When training modules are created to inspire conviction, they effectively change the attitudes, skills, and behaviors needed to unleash every employee’s potential. Employees often learn best through interactive, experiential learning modules that teach and coach them how to actually use the knowledge provided in practice. Experiential learning is an exceptional way to ensure lasting behavior change because it combines immersive activities that mimic real-world challenges with a targeted debrief that connects the lessons learned with the reality of the workplace. It allows participants to learn by doing and not by just listening, reading, or watching. Because they have personally experienced the lessons, new competencies are developed, more information is retained, and individuals are likely to return to work ready and enthusiastic to apply their new knowledge.

Post-Module Assignments
To avoid virtual learning programs from becoming six or more hours long, it is best the training be split into modules with post-module assignments in-between. This makes for a better learner experience, allows participants to practice their new knowledge and skills between modules, and access support from colleagues or their facilitator if they run into challenges. Like the activities required during pre-work, post-module assignments should be relevant and not overly time-intensive. They should reinforce the knowledge provided in the previous module, while also providing information required for the next module that will make sure they have the best experience possible.

There are many things working against the application of new behaviors: old habits, time pressure, peer pressure, lack of support from a supervisor, lack of personal confidence, and just plain forgetting what was learned. This is where sustainment activities show their value. To create lasting change, new skills and behaviors must be retained, coached, reinforced, and measured over time. During this portion of the learner journey, the goal is to remind participants what has been taught and provide any additional tools or resources that would help them back on-the-job.

Chapter 4
Popular Virtual Learning Topics

In order to adapt to a changing world and meet organizational needs, companies today are investing in virtual learning solutions for the following topics:

Leadership Training
The need for great business leaders has arguably never been greater. In order to rise to the challenges, leaders today at all levels need new and improved knowledge, skills, and tools to ensure their own success, along with that of their team and organization. An ideal way to provide this quickly but effectively is with online leadership training. As part of a greater leadership development strategy, virtual learning for leaders will allow you to tackle important challenges and areas such as change management, empowerment, strategy and execution, coaching, and performance management.

Safety Training
In order to lower injury rates, boost productivity, improve morale, and most importantly save lives, it will take more than compliance and technical training. While these training programs are essential, organizations may benefit from taking a step further by creating a personal commitment to safety in every employee and leader. By creating commitment and ownership to their personal safety and the safety of others, even as regulations and safety standards change, real results and behavior change can occur. This can be done with the help of online safety training programs for employees and leaders at all levels and as part of a great learning and development initiative that blends in-class and virtual learning.

Sales Training
In many cases, salespeople would much rather be out selling than in training, so you must provide a good reason for them to be fully present during online sales training. There’s no better way to do that than with experiential activities, videos, case studies, breakout sessions, and a world-class facilitator to facilitate relevant discussions. By using proven learning methodologies in the online classroom, you will be far more likely to engage sales teams, build confidence and competence within individuals, and prepare employees for future growth and change.

Skills and Competency Training
Technical skills vary from function to function, while there are skills that every employee requires, no matter their role or level in the organization. In fact, a survey of L&D professionals and executive leaders named training for soft skills as the leading priority for employee development. To do this both efficiently and effectively, many organizations look to virtual learning to fill the need. Whether the need for training is better communication, accountability, collaboration and teamwork, innovation, or conflict resolution, online skills training can work, you just need to be sure your solution of choice is interactive and offers plenty of opportunities for practice.

Customer Service Training
Given that a moderate improvement in the customer experience would impact the revenue of a typical $1 billion company by an average of $775 million over three years, companies today are increasingly committed to moving beyond customer service to customer centricity. In order to do so successfully, training will be critical. From online customer service training for those in customer-facing positions to company-wide customer centricity training, the goal will be to give employees and leaders the skills and tools they need to put the customer experience at the heart of all their decisions and actions.

Diversity and Inclusion Training
72% of surveyed organizations today are putting a conscious focus on creating a culture of diversity and inclusion, which requires intentionally changing the mindset and behavior of employees at every level of the organization. By doing so, organizations can create an environment where everyone walks in every day feeling they truly belong there and can be their authentic selves. To make this a reality, online diversity and inclusion training is one part of a greater strategy. Done well, it can provide knowledge, encourage conversations, and create connections, which are all essential to building a truly inclusive workplace.

Many of these popular virtual learning topics — leadership, safety, sales, customer service, skills, and diversity — can be addressed through a virtual learning solution that utilizes the power of experiential learning to build conviction and create real behavior change.

Chapter 5
What to Look for In a Virtual Training and Development Partner

One of the most important factors to consider when selecting a partner is whether their capabilities align with your business goals. If a potential partner doesn’t have the right level of experience, has never operated in your field before, or strictly delivers off-the-shelf products that do not match your needs, it’s better to know before you make an investment. Here are the key things to look for when choosing a virtual training partner.

An effective virtual learning program or initiative should be designed with you, not for you. The needs of your learners and business are unique, and so to make it as relevant as possible it is essential to prioritize working with a provider who is willing to work in partnership with you and your team. By doing this, your provider can deliver against your reality and specific needs, as to create real behavior change.

Proven Track Record
When hiring an external partner to provide a virtual learning solution, it is important to know why you should trust them with your learners, your reputation, and your organization’s investment. So although they may not be able to disclose client names for privacy reasons, your partner of choice should provide examples of their work and speak to the work they have done with their clients, even without mentioning a specific name.

Consultation Services and Rollout Support
Implementing virtual learning can be exciting, though it is imperative to your success that you do not rush into it. Time taken upfront to understand key challenges, determine the competencies or behaviors that need immediate attention, and to get alignment on the strategic direction, can multiply the impact of your efforts. It is in the best interest of your provider to provide you with the tools and necessary support to accomplish these things, as it will help them craft your perfect solution.

Proven Methodology
Methodology has a significant impact on the success of virtual learning. Many eLearning providers tend to simply provide knowledge by having learners read, watch, or listen, thereby turning training into a purely intellectual activity. While important, other methodologies, such as experiential learning, will go beyond knowledge transfer to build conviction in learners to change their behavior. This is done through interactive and immersive activities that mimic the challenges of the real world while being masked by fun and captivating metaphors. This makes the learning experience fun, engaging, and with the help of a debrief to tie it all together, relevant for everyday application.

Customizing training content, whether delivered in-class or virtually, builds the relevance necessary to engage your audience and inspire them to change their behaviors. Learners will often recognize the time and effort put into virtual training that looks, feels, and sounds like their organization. Therefore, the ideal virtual learning provider will encourage rebranding the materials or adding internal language to the discussion.

Chapter 6
Implementing Virtual Learning That Truly Changes Behavior

Maximizing the success of virtual learning takes more than logging into an online classroom and hoping employees know how to apply the knowledge to change their behavior and improve results. Rather it requires thorough preparation, alignment, and a trusted training partner who can support your needs from beginning to end. At Eagle’s Flight, we understand how to design and deliver training programs that change employees’ hearts and minds, resulting in lasting behavior change. After 30+ years of using experiential learning in the classroom, we have brought the methodology to the virtual classroom with the help of Howspace and their AI-powered learning platform. The result is a virtual learning solution that helps individuals make direct connections between their actions and their desired performance outcomes, resulting in better performance.

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