3 Reasons to Grow Talent You Have Into Leaders You Need

I received an email from Kyle Lagunas of Software Advice directing me to an excellent blog post he wrote about developing leaders from within a company. I’d like to share it with you here:

Hello Chip,

I recently read a compelling quote by Neil Nicoll, President and CEO of YMCA: “Until [we] become much more intentional about development of internal talent, we are doomed to an ever-growing leadership deficit.”

I’ve written an article in response, and wanted to share it with you. You can find it on my blog: 3 Reasons to Grow Talent You Have Into Leaders You Need

Cheers, Kyle

Here’s an excerpt:

Why is the process of finding a leader often treated as an isolated event rather than an ongoing process? A change has to occur in the way companies are sourcing leadership talent. Rather than look outward when a leader is needed, they should instead continuously look inward to identify candidates with leadership aptitude and invest in honing their skills with development programs. I’ve outlined three solid reasons why.

While many organizations are recruiting leaders from competitors (with cost per hire only rising), few are doing much to develop the talent they have into the leaders they need.

Here’s what I don’t understand: Why is the process of finding a leader – whether to backfill someone or to fill a new role – often treated as an isolated event rather than an ongoing process? One would think more organizations would be proactive in identifying and cultivating leaders within their existing talent pool. While some companies have begun taking measures to that end, the leadership deficit Nicoll predicted has largely become a reality.

A change has to occur in the way companies are sourcing leadership talent. Rather than look outward when a leader is needed, they should instead continuously look inward to identify candidates with leadership aptitude and invest in honing their skills with development programs.

Regardless of whether you ultimately hire leaders from within, simply having a leadership development program yields important benefits for any organization. Here are three reasons to do it:

1. Boost employee engagement and morale

Employee engagement continues to gain weight as a key performance indicator for an organization’s success. However, a study conducted by ACCOR found that although 90% of leaders say employee engagement impacts business success, 75% have no engagement plan or strategy.

To that end, development programs give employees the opportunity to strive toward something more meaningful and valuable than their day-to-day work. And that makes them happy.

While development programs are proven to boost both engagement and morale, however, the success of your program is contingent on alignment with business goals.

Leadership development is serious stuff. It takes time and dedication to make it work. If you’re going to adopt an official leadership development program, be sure to first identify your goals for the program.

2. Increase employee performance

It’s hard to deny a linkage between development and performance. When you’re teaching people how to manage and coach, you’re teaching them how to motivate the people around them.

Makes sense, right? The companies outperforming you certainly think so. In fact, the highest performing organizations spend 36% more on development than their less successful counterparts.

3. Improve retention rates

Many organizations see investments in employee development – leadership development, in particular – as a gamble. If the employee leaves, those investments walk out the door and potentially into the hands of a competitor. The truth is that leadership development and opportunities are actually a leading retention strategy.

Don’t get me wrong – turnover is a valid concern when talking about development, but if you’re hemorrhaging top performers, it’s rarely because you’ve invested too much in developing them.

Making Good Leadership Development with Any Budget

Good leadership development isn’t about which products, services or organizations you use to build or beef up your programs. Hokey as it sounds, it’s about creating meaningful work and experiences that develop skills your employees need to succeed as managers and directors, while developing a pool of leadership candidates within your organization. It’s a win-win.

And you can do this without breaking the bank. For instance:

  • Implement coaching and mentoring programs with top performers.
  • Assign cross-training projects that give exposure to other departmental issues.
  • Task them with managing an intern or seven, with a list of deliverables to execute on.

Whatever decision is made – whether it’s a promotion from within or an external hire, it’s critical to communicate the why.

What successes have you had in developing leaders internally? What challenges are your organization faced with when developing a pool of leadership candidates?

(You can read the full post here: Grow Talent You Have Into Leaders You Need.)

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