Organisations need to build managers who can deal with and manage change effectively. There is a need for new strategies and former development processes will not meet the challenges that face corporations today. The time honored, work up through the ranks and assignment methods are no longer enough. The need for new talent, new leaders and new competencies on a global basis is too great. And younger, high-potential employees display little patience for the old “do as I say” rules and process for advancement.
Most executives are engaged in “transformation efforts” within their companies, as well as responding to the challenges brought on by acquisitions, reorganisation and global expansion. As they struggle with integrating new employees, new technologies and new ideas into established cultures, many came to see change management as an important part of their jobs.
A manager’s job is to build managers who can deal with and manage change effectively. There is a need for learning and development to solve immediate problems as well as create new channels for innovation. Problems in talent management need identifying all the gaps and managers have to decide which gaps to address first before trying to solve around.
There is a big gap between teaching people who are in the pipeline versus what skills they need to move into the next level of leadership. Some critical retirement risks have been accelerated and management is looking at a real gap in three to five years. So there is a need to increase the skills of emerging leaders to fill the unique requirements of these jobs.
Among top leaders, 50 per cent will be gone in seven years. This is an unintended consequence of flattening the organization. Leadership development models are clearly being challenged. Managers have to now work with different financial models, very different demographics, and a great deal of unpredictability. The old way did work, that’s why the company was successful. But that model is now challenged every day.
Managers are continually reviewing their investments in leadership development in order to find the right mix of courses, coaching and developmental projects that could be tied to the company’s most important goals.
One company had narrowed the offering of corporate university “courses” and increased the coaching, training and developmental assignments tied directly to the daily work of the employee.
In the past, it was a badge of honor to be selected for a leadership development program. But at the end of the day it didn’t change anything. Therefore they decided to link learning to what is happening now. Companies need a new curriculum based not just on courses, but on the work they do. That gets them ready for the future.
A number of other companies have been deploying “test and learn” projects, where high-potential employees were involved in an ongoing initiative around employee learning and development. These projects accelerated the time-to-market of innovation. In addition, these projects helped identify skill gaps that would inhibit future growth.
Such projects demanded strong investment from top leadership, particularly in providing coaching “in teachable moments.” There is a lot of power in leader as teacher. But the leader has to make the time and acquire the skills to coach and mentor. Companies face a big barrier getting the executives to spend the time to learn those skills.
Today smart 20-somethings don’t think leadership development is sitting in a class. They demand individual attention. They expect it. So managers now are experimenting with peer-to-peer, cross-function teams. But in the end, there are not enough people with enough skills and enough time.
Many organisations report using a combination of active learning, executive education programs and lateral moves to develop high-potentials. But many are concerned about the pressure to accelerate the process.
It is a challenge to fill leadership jobs. But companies have taken people over the last three years and put them in jobs so complex they got out of their comfort zone. They left because they didn’t feel safe. They felt if they failed at this job, they failed at their career. Others tried shortening of rotational assignments only to discover that it made the experience less valuable for the employee and the organisation. High-potentials are left in their jobs for 18 months. But that’s not long enough to see results. The new rule of thumb is 30 months.