The Executive Leadership Development Exchange, a working group of human capital professionals who are members of i4cp, commissioned a study to learn more about the strategies that high-performing organizations find most effective for developing their high-potentials.
The resulting study, Accelerating High-Potential Employees on the Path to Leadership, recommends providing high-potentials with the kind of high-profile opportunities that can truly lead to a cadre of ready leadership talent.
Give high-potentials a solid business foundation that includes marketing, operations, sales, finance and other key functions as well as an understanding of how these business functions integrate. Three times as many high-performing organizations (HPOs) as low-performing organizations (LPOs) credit a broad business curriculum as a success factor in their high-potential employee development program.
Involve respected senior leaders in designing such foundational business programs. They can contribute by relating stories of lessons learned from their own developmental journeys and creating relevant learning tools.
Stretch assignments, such as job rotations and cross-functional projects, are used by six in 10 HPOs. In fact, more than twice as many HPOs as LPOs credit such high-profile assignments as a success factor in their high-potential employee development programs, the top differentiator between HPOs/LPOs in the entire study.
But insufficient access to challenging assignment is one of the top hindrances to the success of high-potential employee development programs. Intel’s Developmental Opportunity Tool (DOT) is an example of how one organization addressed the need to create developmental opportunities. DOT is an online talent marketplace that facilitates the matching of short-term assignments and employees seeking development. Amreen Madhani, HR Manager, said, “We were so siloed. Everyone had their own tools, but there was limited visibility to employees across the organization. We wanted an enterprise-wide solution.” DOT met that need, successfully facilitating the completion of 2,000 assignments.
High-potential employees can benefit from one-on-one meetings with members of the executive team, but the benefits may work both ways. High-potentials get the opportunity to establish or strengthen relationships and to learn directly from experienced leaders. Those leaders, however, also have a great opportunity to get to know and influence the firm’s future executives. These meetings can take place as informal walk-and-talks or scheduled lunch-and-learns.
Exposure to the board of directors is another top differentiator between HPOs/LPOs in this study, but these opportunities seem to be in short supply. Even among HPOs, just 21% used board exposure to accelerate employees on the path to leadership. Such exposure could take the form of one-on-one face time or invitations to board meetings.
Two-thirds of HPOs use coaching to guide their high-potentials toward leadership readiness. In fact, having a culture of coaching is a success factor significantly correlated to market performance. High-potentials provided with performance coaching benefit from the opportunity to elevate skills to new levels.
However, high-potential employees also need to develop their own coaching skills. Role-plays are especially effective for practicing critical skills such as listening, probing and providing feedback. This excellence in coaching pays off in increased confidence and trust-building.
The success framework for accelerating the development of high-potential employees requires organizations to supplement opportunities such as these with other key features, including a selection process for identifying high-potential talent and the establishment of a formal measurement tool to determine the effectiveness of leadership development efforts.
Together, these approaches can accelerate the building of a talent pipeline that’s ready to tackle the challenges of an ever-changing business world.
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