Learning Translation Succeeding A Leadership Development Programme: A Network Social Capital Perspective
AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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AbstractLeadership quality is recognised as a major contributor to organisational performance. With a talent war looming, there is an increasing emphasis on developing an internal leadership talent pipeline. Formal leadership development programmes are a major vehicle for this purpose. Leadership development programmes find themselves competing with other organisational projects for funds and are expected to show a return on investment. Successful learning translation from the programme to the workplace is therefore essential to fulfil this requirement. Yet, the generally accepted transfer rate of 10% is worryingly low. Traditional learning transfer research, with the working environment explored from a hierarchical and single dyad perspective, provides inconsistent results and little advice for the human resource development (HRD) profession on how to improve transfer performance. This research creates a new conversation by considering learning transfer from a network social capital perspective; a perspective, arguably, more aligned to the socially situated nature of leadership. A longitudinal case study of a senior leadership development programme, underpinned by a critical realist philosophy, is used to explore how a leader’s network social capital – defined as the value inherent in the relationships within the leader’s organisational, professional and home networks – may influence leadership learning translation in the workplace. The results show a far wider range of social network actors are perceived as enabling or hindering the translation of leadership programme knowledge into improved practice than currently considered in the literature. Further, the four groups of identified developmental roles enacted by the social network and forming the leader’s network social capital (Opportunity to participate in learning translation, Structure for learning translation, Learning assistance and Access to vicarious leadership practice) can be sourced from many different parts of the leader’s network. The diversity, multiplexity and individuality of network social capital may explain the ambiguity and contradiction within the extant learning transfer results. Mechanisms facilitating the formation and flow of the four social capital groups are also isolated and then discussed within the context of the leader’s personal agency. The research is limited by a single case focus and its outcomes may be influenced by the seniority of the leaders within the case. However, the inference of the study’s findings is that the HRD community needs to think far wider than the leader’s line manager when designing strategies to support leadership learning translation. The emergence of two distinct drivers of social capital flows suggests consideration of two distinct solutions for improving translation – one focussed on the organisation and one directed at the leader.
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