Reinvent Your Talent Development Strategies

The talent pool is changing, and where you look for potential new hires is not the same as it used to be. Talent development efforts should be fine-tuned so that time and resources are spent on the right people. A recent article from Talent authors Mark A. Clauss and Ashley A. Willms suggests focusing on creating more out of less with your talent development strategies.

Small to mid-sized companies do not have the resources available to them that larger organizations do in regards to cultivating tomorrow’s talent leaders. Smaller budgets and a harder economic environment make this practice more difficult. How can you make the best with what you have?

There are more than 450,000 techniques and activities talent managers can leverage to develop their leaders. But given limited resources, talent leaders must pair the needs of emerging leaders with the right combination of development tactics and channels – a potentially expensive logistical challenge. It is not about investing in more resources, but about investing resources in areas with the greatest return.

This sounds easier than it may actually be. The article notes that the Corporate Executive Board’s HR Leadership Council conducted a survey of more that 130,000 junior, mid-career and senior level employees from 2007 to 2010, ranging across 55 cross-industry organizations globally. The goal was to look into the impact of over 300 employee potential and high-potential engagement drivers. The survey showed that less than 80 of the investigated drivers have any meaningful impact upon potential and engagement. With so much out there, the summation was that the best tactic is to pair down the focus of developmental strategies, and that the effective drivers group into three themes: 1. Leverage employee relationships; 2. Ensure credible organizational commitment; 3. Structure challenges within job experiences.

The first piece of advice to follow: Redefine your organization’s definition of leadership potential. One such definition of leadership potential is ‘someone with the ability, engagement, and aspiration to rise to and succeed in more critical senior positions. The right candidate will invariably possess all three of those traits, and there’s no fooling with these – if he or she doesn’t have these traits, they are unfortunately skills that cannot be taught. It’s not that this person won’t succeed, but the focus is to hone in on the RIGHT candidate for future leadership roles, and these traits are necessary. Note that if there is a star within the organization, a great way to cultivate that individual is to pair them with the right manager. Put your emerging leaders with your strong managers.

Secondly, ensure credible organizational commitment from your emerging leaders. The right candidate will be looking toward your organization to help them blossom within the company. If you’re committed to helping them grow, it will reinforce their assumption that they are in the right organization to flourish. Create influential development plans to help your emerging leaders succeed and include the following tactics: be sure to define concrete objectives; communicate clearly about the resources available to the individual; and also firmly instill the belief that they are capable of achieving stated goals.

Well planned and delivered development plans not only create higher performance rates and engagement, they also influence emotional commitment to the organization. Be sure that your development plans achieve all of these things:

1. Account for employee aspiration.

2. Offer customized development activities based on performance assessment, job function and level.

3. Balance business goals and leadership development needs.

4. Ensure the right level of stretch.

5. Address skill gaps.

Clear communication about expectations and goals is crucial so that emerging leaders receive the support they need. It’s also imperative that there are often check-ins about the progress and progression of the development plan. Induce the individual’s reflection upon the process so that they might grow and learn from the development strategy. After the development strategy has been executed, do a de-briefing to go over what was effective, what was learned and what could be done better next time. This will also help the individual to consider the lessons learned and skills gained throughout the process.

Thirdly, structure challenges within job experiences. Formal developmental programs often cost and arm and a leg. This doesn’t have to be the case, and it shouldn’t scare away small to mid-sized organizations. It’s also true that with such a chaotic work environment, there are fewer positions to be filled and fewer positions to move up to. Many times, when an individual moves up the ladder, the development program is merely on-the-job training, and if this is all that’s affordable for your organization, just be sure that the process fulfills two criteria: 1. There must be a team for the leaders to lead; 2. The projects must help implement a long-term strategic change such as brand enhancement, sector or service line development.

A few proven successful and low-cost development plan ideas include:

Job  rotation programs

Internal expert training


Crucible roles

Executive shadow cabinet

These ideas can help you implement successful development strategies for fine-tuning your organization’s emerging leaders. To read more about what you can do to create low-cost, successful development strategies for your company, click here to read the full article.


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