Plan Ahead Or Get Left Behind

Plan Ahead Or Get Left Behind

More organizations are waking up to the fact that a robust leadership pipeline is vital to their sustained success. Companies such as Procter & Gamble, Google, Ernst & Young, General Electric, and PepsiCo are well-known for their effective systems of developing talent, and the results over the decades speak for themselves. Yet most organizations have put little thought or effort into developing their next generation of leaders.

Spotting potential leaders early on and nurturing their talents can have a transformative impact on your organization’s future. What follows are a few elements to consider in fostering a strong leadership development pipeline.

Identify HiPos

In one survey, top performers were asked why they left their last employer. The most frequent response: “No one ever asked me to stay.” The first step in creating a thriving pipeline is identifying high-potential employees (HiPos) who exhibit the qualities and competencies required to become your future leaders. These HiPos are characterized not only by their work ethic, but also dedication to the organization’s mission and goals and their ambition for not only personal but team growth.

Coach Them Toward Their Next Job

To help employees develop their leadership skills, organizations must provide regular and in-depth coaching. Dr. David B. Peterson, former director of executive coaching and development at Google, once stressed to me that many employees don’t understand they need to invest time every week in preparing for their next role. Peterson advised managers take their team members through something he called a “reality test,” looking back a week and then ahead a week at their calendars to see how much of their time is spent on tasks that will help get them where they want to be a year from now. If little to no time is spent in learning and growing, there’s little chance the person will ever move up. Allowing your people just an hour or two a week is a big start to learn desirable skills and align their focus with their long-term personal development goals.

Create More Steps To Grow

More than 75 percent of Gen Z believe they should be promoted within their first year on the job. One highly effective means of keeping more younger workers is to create more steps on the promotional ladder. This was done at the aptly named Ladders, Inc., a job search firm. The company’s CEO, Marc Cenedella, said the old policy at Ladders was to try to promote new hires from Associate to Senior Associate within two years, but the young workers perceived that as a slow passing of years with nothing to show for it. Cenedella admitted he tried badgering them into seeing things his way, but eventually adapted himself. He revised the program to provide six promotions over two years—with performance hurdles, title increases, and pay bumps every step of the way. “We kept the same final pay rate and the same progression toward expertise over time,” he says. “We learned that more frequent career feedback, with better chances for getting ahead, and some self-direction were actually very effective tools for building morale and contributing to the success of our company.”

Succession Planning

Creating a robust succession plan is a cornerstone of leadership pipeline development. P&G, for instance, prides itself on being able to fill any key leadership job within an hour, and it works to have three candidates lined up for each of its top positions. A strong succession plan will ensure a seamless transition in the event of unexpected departures and will help safeguard the organization’s continuity—a positive for all stakeholders.

Rotate People

Moving key people among jobs allows HiPo employees to gain valuable experience in various departments and roles. Exposure to diverse challenges broadens their skill sets and perspective, making them well-rounded leaders who can navigate complex scenarios. These roles can be the crucible in which future leaders are forged. As part of this process, it’s important to identify roles that will not only stretch people but provide a boost of credibility on their resumes.

Be More Inclusive

In today’s diverse world, inclusivity is not just a moral imperative but also a strategic necessity. A leadership pipeline should reflect the organization’s broader community and foster a culture where everyone has an opportunity to rise through the ranks, especially those who may have felt marginalized in the past.

By identifying high-potential employees and preparing them for their next roles, and by being more thoughtful about the development opportunities they offer, organizations can create a leadership pipeline that secures their future. I’ve seen organizations transform over time into powerhouses of leadership development within their industries, and it is a testament to the power of nurturing talent and building from within.

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