Discussions with our Research Members: Five Topics to Watch for 2010

FiveI just finished a research member roundtable with some of our major clients and want to share five big issues we see emerging for 2010:

1.  Diversity as a talent management strategy.

Nearly all of our clients mentioned that their talent management strategy now includes diversity.  The definition of diversity is broad:  it includes age, gender, culture, physical capabilities, education, and even diversity of thought.  One of our clients (a major retailer) mentioned that they see store-level diversity as critical to being an employer of choice and providing an attractive place to shop among different cities.  A major defense contractor, which has a major diversity program, mentioned that they have studied the relationship between diversity and engagement and have proven that a more diverse workforce creates a more engaged and high-performing team.

Nearly all major organizations are now global, multi-cultural, and multi-generational:  in 2010 we must consider diversity a part of our strategy to build a world-class organization.  This means it now belongs in the talent management strategy.

2.  Leadership assessment as core to the leadership strategy.

The top HR priority in nearly every company we speak with continues to be leadership development (at all levels).  One of our members, a very sophisticated leadership development organization (one of the Fortune top 25 in leadership), told us that they use a variety of assessment tools to identify HIPO (high potential) leaders:  Learning Agility (assessed through a Lominger tool), Decision Styles (assessed through a Korn-Ferry tool), 360 assessments, and developmental experiences.  They actually study the work history of their top 100 leaders to see what types of assignments have created their best leaders and then make sure that each HIPO has a plan to obtain these types of experiences.  By working with Lominger and Korn-Ferry (same company), they not only have assessment tools but also have the developmental aids, performance coaching tools, and behavioral interview questions to use this model across all potential leaders.

How do you assess high-potential leaders?  In 2010 you should strive to create a repeatable, business-driven model which can scale.  This is a ready-made approach to building a Level 2 or Level 3 leadership development program.

3.  Expanding career development beyond promotion.

As we have written and studied in much of our research, many of our clients are now implementing software-based performance management tools.  These companies quickly realize that they must give their employees and managers a career development model which enables people to work with their managers (or “sponsors” as one client puts it) to improve their performance.  Today’s career development options are not only vertical:  they may include a lateral move, an in-place developmental opportunity, a special assignment, an exploratory assignment, and even an assignment outside of the company.

Our research also shows that “deep specialization” drives competitive advantage.  In 2010 you should consider building a real career development model which incorporate all of these options, driven from your performance management process.  While this may not seem new to some of us, our research shows that fewer than 30% of all organizations have any form of corporate-wide career development models in place.

4.  Focus on the HR generalists and field training teams.

The fourth topic which came up among many of our members is the need to build skills, focus, and capabilities among the field HR and L&D teams.  While most HR organizations are now going through a transformation (consolidation in many cases), there will always be a need for generalists and trainers.  These people wear many hats:  one day they are a coach, the next day they are a consultant, and the next day they are an administrator.  Many of them entered the profession without deep levels of training.  If you want any of your strategic talent and L&D programs to roll out with success, these people must be fully engaged, trained, and ready.  (Our 2010 research membership program will have new features and offerings specifically designed for this audience, please call us if you’d like more information.)

5.  First line management continues to be the weak link.

In fact, we still hear many companies tell us that their weakest job role is the first line manager and supervisor.  One member, a major manufacturer of helicopters, told us that after years of leadership development programs they still find that supervisors do not honor or understand their role as managers.  I believe this will be true forever.  Remember that most supervisors and first-line managers learned how to manage from another manager.  Yet they are the troopers which make your organization succeed.   Many of our members have built performance-excellence, coaching, and in-place development programs to make sure first line managers get the support they need.

In 2010 think about taking some of your top-level leadership development dollars and building more tools and programs for first line leaders.  These types of programs payoff many times over, and they become the backbone of your leadership development, training, engagement, and employee performance program.

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  • Thanks for your insight on the need for assessment in any leadership developement initiative. The priority in any consideration of a leadership development initiative must be its connection to the current strategic business priorities of the company. Those priorities translate into leadership competencies. The assessment tools that are now available make it possible for a company to focus the leadership development planning for each high potential employee. There is a need to offer a comprehensive and comparative summary of all the current assessments.
    Dick Daniels
    CEO, The Leadership Development Group
    dickd@mark1.org