Iden­ti­fy­ing and sup­port­ing fu­ture lead­ers Mak­ing the most of high-po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees

Ottawa Business Journal - HR Update - - Talent Management -

By Gary Fehr

The most press­ing chal­lenge for or­ga­ni­za­tions in Canada and around the globe is en­sur­ing they have the right tal­ent with the right skills able to do the right job. The vi­tal is­sue, then, is the ques­tion of lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment. How can man­agers en­sure they are able to build the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of em­ploy­ees to take over lead­er­ship po­si­tions at all lev­els and that they have lead­ers who can trans­late strat­egy into ac­tion? How can they build a sys­tem­atic process where they can iden­tify and strengthen tal­ent to sup­port or­ga­ni­za­tional growth?

Our re­search shows that many work­places are strug­gling with th­ese ques­tions. Few or­ga­ni­za­tions feel they have an ad­e­quate man­age­ment pipe­line to fill all their needs, and many strug­gle with the ques­tion of how to groom and grow tal­ent at all lev­els so they are able to as­sume lead­er­ship po­si­tions with the skills and abil­i­ties needed to cre­ate pos­i­tive ac­tion.

What skills are most im­por­tant for lead­ers? Cur­rently, or­ga­ni­za­tions need lead­ers who are able to make smart de­ci­sions in in­creas­ingly com­plex en­vi­ron­ments. Tech­nol­ogy and “flat­ter” or­ga­ni­za­tional struc­tures are mak­ing it more im­por­tant than ever to learn how to foster col­lab­o­ra­tion and to work ef­fi­ciently across the or­ga­ni­za­tion – not just in si­los – to deal with peo­ple who aren’t di­rect re­ports, by mas­ter­ing the art of in­flu­ence. And lead­ers need to be able to trans­late and ex­e­cute strat­egy so ev­ery­one un­der­stands his or her role and how it con­trib­utes to the achieve­ment of over­all goals.


The crit­i­cal first step for or­ga­ni­za­tions is to de­ter­mine the es­sen­tial skills needed to move the com­pany for­ward. What is the strat­egy and what are the qual­i­ties re­quired to make that strat­egy hap­pen? For ex­am­ple, a tech­nol­ogy com­pany may de­ter­mine it needs to take a more con­sul­ta­tive ap­proach to sell­ing, which es­sen­tially means trans­form­ing the sales force from prod­uct push­ers to part­ners who are able to un­der­stand and dis­cuss cus­tomers’ prob­lems and needs.

The most ef­fec­tive method for pin­point­ing which peo­ple have the nec­es­sary skills is through a rig­or­ous se­ries of psy­cho­me­t­ric, be­havioural and other as­sess­ments. It is also es­sen­tial for cre­at­ing de­vel­op­ment plans tai­lored to the in­di­vid­ual. Rarely will one size fit all. Such plans should ad­dress both the skills needed im­me­di­ately and those likely to be re­quired in the fu­ture.


The lat­ter ap­proach re­quires a sys­tem­atic way to iden­tify high-po­ten­tial tal­ent. Un­for­tu­nately, many or­ga­ni­za­tions think they have a plan in place, but are ac­tu­ally re­ly­ing on anec­do­tal in­for­ma­tion rather than an­a­lyt­i­cal anal­y­sis.


Or­ga­ni­za­tions must ad­dress the mat­ter of suc­ces­sion by de­vel­op­ing lead­ers with an eye to­ward groom­ing those able to as­sume po­si­tions at the top. It be­gins with as­sess­ment and should be fol­lowed by in­ten­sive coach­ing and de­vel­op­ment to ad­dress strengths and skill gaps. Such a process ben­e­fits the em­ployee and the en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tion, even in cases when the em­ployee doesn’t make it to a se­nior lead­er­ship po­si­tion.


Per­haps the great­est chal­lenge fac­ing HR pro­fes­sion­als in their ef­forts to cre­ate a sys­tem­atic man­age­ment pipe­line is the mat­ter of mea­sure­ment. In­creas­ingly, or­ga­ni­za­tions look­ing for a clear re­turn on in­vest­ment de­mand clear met­rics demon­strat­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of lead­er­ship pro­grams. Pro­vid­ing such ev­i­dence is also part and par­cel of HR pro­fes­sion­als’ in­creas­ing role as trusted part­ners with other busi­ness lead­ers in the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Demon­strat­ing a di­rect link be­tween tal­ent man­age­ment ini­tia­tives and bot­tom-line re­sults such as in­creased prof­itabil­ity is a chal­lenge. But there are other met­rics, such as re­duced hir­ing costs or how quickly it takes high-po­ten­tial can­di­dates to be pro­moted, that can be used to mea­sure how well tal­ent pro­grams con­trib­ute to key busi­ness driv­ers.

With the right tal­ent man­age­ment strat­egy in place, or­ga­ni­za­tions can be con­fi­dent they will have the right peo­ple in the right jobs able to meet the chal­lenges of to­day’s un­cer­tain cli­mate. Gary Fehr is vice-pres­i­dent of client ser­vices at Right Man­age­ment.

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