The City of Aiken Achieves Overwhelming Success Bringing Leadership Training In-house

city maintenance worker trimming trees

Highlights: City of Aiken

Need

  • Develop its in-house leadership training program.
  • Address rising cost of community college courses as budget was shrinking.
  • People were promoted from within and many lacked people skills.
  • Ability to deliver during regularly scheduled manager meetings.
  • Training appropriate for new, existing, and potential supervisors and managers.
  • Materials that could be a focal point of their new mentoring program.
  • Content to align with organizational thinking and values.

Implementation

  • Audience – New, existing, and future supervisors and managers.
  • Curriculum The Leadership Journey™
  • Delivery to Existing Leaders – During their regularly scheduled manager meetings. One course every three weeks.
  • Delivery to Future Leaders – Group session every two weeks.
  • Facilitation – Led by the HR manager.
  • Discussion – During group training sessions.
  • Application – Participants would apply personal action plans between courses.
  • Follow-up – During the first 10 minutes of group sessions. Mentors would hold mentees accountable during their one-on-ones.

Results

  • Improved leadership skills in supervisors and managers.
  • Increased confidence in course participants.
  • Participants are getting promoted to high-level management positions.
  • Overwhelming response from supervisors and their managers wanting to participate.
  • Content closely aligned with the organization’s values.
  • Focused and consistent mentoring discussions based on course materials.
  • Improved relationships and camaraderie among participants.

The Organization

Budget Reductions Require Moving Leadership Training In-house

Citizens of Aiken are proud of its natural beauty and residential character. They rely on their city government to ensure their quality of life and access to services that they’ve come to depend on.

The City of Aiken takes its responsibilities seriously and recognized the critical role its staff has in ensuring service and security. They also recognize that staff can only be as effective as their supervisors and managers help them to be.

A Government Organization Steeped in Southern Tradition

The City of Aiken is guided by its organizational values, sincerity, and passion for providing high-quality customer service.

The Aiken community describes itself as a blend of old and new, offering a lifestyle that suits the discriminating tastes of those looking to retire or relocate in the Southeast.

The Challenge

Developing Leadership and People Skills in Supervisors with Diverse Backgrounds

Promoting people from within is generally considered to be a positive approach to staff development, engagement, and loyalty. However, it does come with some challenges. Chief among them is that those promoted from within may lack critical leadership skills and experience.

That was the case with the City of Aiken. Many of those promoted lacked the important people skills necessary to help them be effective supervisors.

The City had attempted to address the issue by sending staff to courses at a local community college, but increasing costs and shrinking budgets spurred a decision to bring the training in-house for its 30 supervisors and managers.

While many staff members hold bachelor’s or master’s degrees, they didn’t necessarily learn leadership skills in school—or have the opportunity to practice those skills before being promoted into a management position.

In their search for a solution to help leaders build the important people skills needed to nurture and develop all staff, the City of Aiken landed on The Leadership Journey.


The Leadership Journey has been great! There has been an overwhelming response of supervisors wanting to participate.”

Kenny Cook, Human Resources Director, City of Aiken

The Leadership Journey™

The Perfect Solution to Hold Supervisors Accountable for Learning and Applying Practical How-to Skills

The City of Aiken turned to Business Training Experts, choosing The Leadership Journey for its customizable turnkey approach for group and individualized learning.

The program was perfect for their training needs. They needed a solution that would fit into their regularly scheduled manager meetings to minimize the time staff would have to be pulled off the job.

They also liked the training model—short bursts over time to help supervisors and managers learn practical skills. The 10 core competencies their leaders developed aligned with the skills they needed to lead their diverse teams.

They felt The Leadership Journey was “the perfect answer” to the challenge they were facing and the perfect opportunity to augment their succession planning efforts.

supervisor and worker discussing sidewalk repair

The City of Aiken decided to go through one course every 23 weeks. Leadership is a shared experience and so was their approach to implementing The Leadership Journey. They decided students would participate in each of the active learning components during group meetings rather than in a blended model. Each session included:

  • Discussion related to personal action plans and shared success stories
  • Video and note-taking guides from the current course
  • Open-ended questions and discussion
  • A group practice exercise
  • A quiz
  • The completion a personal action plan

The Results

Improved Leadership Skills, People Skills, and Confidence in Supervisors and Managers

Supervisors and managers improved their leadership skills and became better managers.

An important component of The Leadership Journey for the City of Aiken was the practical how-to approach, allowing participants to apply skills learned immediately back on the job.

The nature of the program allows for ongoing learning from colleagues based on these on-the-job experiences. The reinforcement of shared experiences makes the training practical and relevant.

The Leadership Journey built confidence in leadership skills, better positioning staff for future promotions. The camaraderie developed among the first group of students is driving interest among other staff members.

The training has been so successful that demand is high among employees hoping to take part in upcoming sessions. They’ve seen the results and achievements of those involved in the first round of training. Word-of-mouth has been strong, leading others to value the opportunity to learn practical supervisory and managerial skills.

The City of Aiken’s mentoring program used The Leadership Journey materials to have focused and consistent mentor and mentee discussions leading to valuable insights and organization improvements.

It’s not just the supervisors and managers who are getting better—everyone is! The City of Aiken has discovered firsthand the importance of building people skills among current and potential supervisors and managers in order to strengthen the entire organization.


“Everyone is getting better! The training has been great!”

Kenny Cook, Human Resources Director, City of Aiken

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