It’s a key task for managers: developing the company’s next generation of leaders.
It’s usually less expensive to retain and develop home-grown talent than to hire it from the outside. Experts recommend creating in-house leadership development programs that single out so-called high-potential employees and put them through additional training related to their role, including mentorships, management classes, command appointments and coaching. The goal is to elevate candidates above a single function and give them a broader vision of the company and the role of a manager.
Here’s some advice on how to implement such a program:
Rotate people through different jobs. You want to give participants first-hand experience in many different roles throughout your company. They’ll gain exposure to different divisions and gain new expertise. At a lower level this can be done by enabling a team member to step up as a Team Leader or shadow a team leader to allow hands on access to the standards expected of such a role.
Challenge them with unfamiliar jobs. Stretch assignments are growth-oriented exercises with some inherent risk. They’re designed to push participants past their skill level. Even failure offers valuable lessons that can add new skills, improve confidence and solidify employee commitment.
Create mentoring programs. Typically, employees are paired with more senior employees at their company or within a team. Create clear guidelines for the relationship. When partners meet for the first time, they should determine the mechanics of their relationship — when will they meet, how often, and how will they communicate outside those meetings. Partners should get to know each other before tackling specific issues. Spending time discussing work styles, personalities and backgrounds builds trust that will pay off later.
Ensure participants get frequent feedback and coaching. You want them to stretch but not break, so make sure they have adequate support in new tasks or assignments. Frequent evaluations will help you catch and address problems early on. Get feedback from the individual they have been partnered with or even other members of the team.
Tap veterans’ advice. Don’t let more experienced workers’ knowledge be bypassed. Set up mentoring programs between senior team members and potential future leaders, and consider ways to keep older workers on tap even after they’ve retired, through contracting or part-time arrangements.
Allow participants to wash out. Not every candidate will have what it takes to be a good leader. Re-orbat and assign new team members as needed and go outside the company if necessary and recruit individuals personally. Selection should be an ongoing process and doesn’t require every new participant to start at the same time. Have senior members of the team tutor new candidates.