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What Your Leadership Talent Pool Says About Your Company’s Future

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Editor’s note: Kyle Lagunas wrote this post about leadership in 2012 and we’re providing an update by adding some of our thoughts as well — Kyle provided a great handle on the topic that we really don’t need to edit much of his work here. We have added some of the principles of succession planning as well as leadership to update his post.

A lot has changed since Kyle first submitted this post as we were only on the verge of all the changes we are in the midst of today – especially with

  • a workforce that was set to shrink 70% globally (and it did)
  • Baby Boomers not so sure they would be retiring (and many haven’t)
  • Millennials becoming the dominant workforce (and they have)
  • Workskills shortage due to the lag in education (and there is) and
  • technology set to skyrocket in the rate of change (and it has)

However, a very important conversation that is missing today is succession

We seemed to be focused on the rate of change of anything and the analytics of everything but not on who we should be grooming to lead us in the future.

Most are not even thinking about how we are going to hone our future leaders for the ever-increasing world of change, and especially how are we going to do this with the average employee remaining put for an average of 30 months.

Why You Should Be Developing Your Leadership Talent Pool NOW!

The ‘Why’ in this statement is the process of finding a leader — whether to backfill for someone or to fill a new role.

Aren’t we not often treating all this as an isolated event rather than an ongoing process?

Leadership is natural for many people, yes — however, it is still a rough skill that needs honing, trueing, testing, and appropriate development.

Honing those skills should never be left to the luck of the draw — stop and think: is your company placing more emphasis on finding the right analyst for the HR and Business Processes than it does on the effectiveness, vision, capacity, and direction of someone who will be leading everyone in the company in the future?

What we value is determined by the time, money and efforts we put forth — it also determines where we end up as well.

Once in position, a leader is on his or her own save for the mentors they keep with them.

Once in position, it is real-life that is the training classes, there are no safe spaces nor any safety pin volunteers to be found for a business leader — very much similar to the structure of the military, you have your training and then you have real battles, you can’t call a timeout and return to your training.

How you come out is really dependent upon how well you keep yourself focused and centered during the battles – not before nor after.

That takes honing, experience, drilling…

With the cost per hire always rising
as well as the cost of training,
retaining and promoting an employee
always costing more each year,
why do so few organizations
have a process for identifying and
cultivating leaders
within their existing talent pool?

Neil Nicoll, President, and CEO of YMCA warned us in Finding Leaders for America’s Nonprofits: Commentaries that…

“Until [we] become much more intentional
about development of internal talent,
we are doomed to an ever-growing leadership deficit.”

That was 8 years ago…

leadership talent pool

Stepping Back to Step Ahead

Let’s step back it a bit and look at this from demands that are going to affect a leader’s ability to carry out their vision and their mission…

  • the workforce is shrinking and will be for another few years
  • your company will most likely be doing business in a new country for the first time, if not already, before the next 5 years lapse
  • your employees are going to be doing more work with less available hands than any generation before them
  • the rate of change in technology is escalating from every few months to changes every month in the last 5 years, with changes expected to be 2,3, or 4 times a month within 5 years or less
  • competition for skilled workers you need is ever increasingly growing and the ability to retain them has become expensive as well as time-consuming, and
  • many of your newest employees need to be trained with tools that help them do their work in accordance as to how your company operates

Not a short order…

Acres of Diamonds – In Your Own Yard

Companies need to change the way they are sourcing leadership talent and there is no time to waste, you most likely will need to change and learn along the way, mistakes and all.

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 reasons to do it…

Leadership Programs Boost Employee Engagement

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 employees happy.

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.

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Leadership Programs Increase Employee Performance

It’s hard to deny a linkage between development and performance.

As John Robak, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Greeley and Hansen, attests…

“Those individuals in our organization
who are inspired tend to outperform.
That’s because the more well-rounded you are,
the better you’re able to perform.”

Makes sense, right?

It had better as the companies outperforming you certainly think so.

The highest performing organizations spend 36% more on development than their less successful counterparts.

And the organizations that are doing this effectively understand

  • what their future needs are going to be, and
  • how to engage their potentials and give them the opportunity to develop the skills that they need to succeed in the operation

Leadership Programs 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.

For those who cite turnover as a reason not to invest in developing employees, though, the truth is that leadership development and opportunities are actually a leading retention strategy.

“Gen Y tends to be more fluid and move more frequently,
which can be intimidating
for employers worried about turnover.
We see the exact opposite,” says Robak.

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

Transparency is King in Leadership Development

As Roback points out,

“In the absence of feedback,
people tend to create their own.”

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

Robak goes on to say that,

“We don’t just want our message to be heard —
we want to ensure it’s received.”

Otherwise, all of your best intentions are for naught.

succession planning

The Last Word

Leaders always find that 70 percent of their work will focus on their person while 30% of their work will focus their skills.

Your future leaders are whom your future workforce will be turning to when they need direction, need clarity of the company’s vision, are in need of encouragement, seek assistance to their growth, and look to for their purpose in their work.

Your future workforce will also be determining their levels of responsibility, involvement, accountability, innovation, inspiration from whoever you are training today.

There are going to be those whose character is already independent of those traits and already shine in these areas despite the quality of leadership present now — those employees are your diamonds in the rough!

If you are not planting seeds today into your leaders of tomorrow, then how can you expect to get something from which you are not preparing?

Whether your leadership does this today or not is irrelevant — and is a shame, if not.

Like every day we wake up, there is a clean slate to start everything anew – and making sure your present castle is not floating on air tomorrow is the surest means to protect and build the ends you have built today.

However, in the process, everyone must remember something most seem to forget today — and consider this a warning as well as advice…

Stay focused on the overall quality and truest character of the means you use to develop and hone your leaders of tomorrow as even your best intentions will only bare the fruit of your truest actions.

The end cannot justify the means,
for the simple and obvious reason
that the means employed
determines the nature of the ends produced.

~ Aldous Huxley

Have other ideas or thoughts about all this? Start a conversation b sharing them in our comments below – thanks!


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Kyle Lagunas

Research manager, emerging trends and technologies -- talent acquisition and staffing at IDC

Kyle Lagunas is research manager for IDC's emerging trends and technologies in a newly created talent acquisition and staffing practice.

In this role, Kyle leads IDC's research on the most recent developments in recruiting and staffing software, services, and consulting.

This research puts talent acquisition into the broader context of an integrated talent strategy.

He’s an avid tech enthusiast and GenY advocate and his work has been featured in Forbes, The New York Times, Business Insider, Information Weekly, The Huffington Post, and many other sources.

You can reach Kyle via email, social media, or by leaving a comment below...

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