10 Critical Components of a Talent-Development Program

Virtually every value building workshop we conduct generates an initiative to “groom the next generation of leaders” or some variant of that theme.  Certainly this makes sense.  Our companies success is a function of our ability to lead.

Jean Martin and Conrad Schmidt, both executive directors of the Corporate Executive Board’s Corporate Leadership Council, published a terrific article in May’s Harvard Business Review titled “How to Keep Your Top Talent.”  There is a ton of interesting research in the article but I found myself drawn to the “10 Critical Components of a Talent-Development Program.”  We all love lists, and this list really hits the mark.  Especially if “grooming your next generation of leaders” is one of your transformational initiatives.

Here goes.

1. Explicitly test candidates in three dimensions:  ability, engagement, and aspiration.

2. Emphasize future competencies needed (derived from corporate-level growth plans) more heavily than current performance when you’re choosing employees for development.

3. Manage the quantity and quality of high potentials at the corporate level, as a portfolio of scarce growth assets.

4. Forget rote functional or business-unit rotations; place young leaders in intense assignments with precisely described development challenges.

5. Identify the riskiest, most challenging positions across the company, and assign them directly to rising stars.

6. Create individual development plans; link personal objectives to the company’s plans for growth, rather than to generic competency models.

7. Reevaluate top talent annually for possible changes in ability, engagement, and aspiration levels.

8. Offer significantly differentiated compensation and recognition to star employees.

9. Hold regular, open dialogues between high potentials and program managers, to monitor star employees’ development and satisfaction.

10. Replace broadcast communications about the company’s strategy with individualized messages for emerging leaders – with an emphasis on how their development fits into the company’s plans.

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