I often speak at events for small and medium-sized organizations where I’m asked, “How can I find great leaders for my business?” or “What are your tips for building talent?”.
The size of the business, non-profit, or municipality matters very little as even large firms face the same dilemma. I’m working with a large organization right now that has gaps in its leadership team and is trying to determine the right strategy to close these gaps. Today we are experiencing the lowest unemployment in 16 years – good for our nation and challenging for companies. My advice is to employ several strategies that I like to call: build, buy, or borrow.
Building leadership talent within your organization has several benefits. Your employees understand the culture and have built a relationship with you – they know how things work. When you bring in external hires, you are assuming a cultural fit which doesn’t always pan out. Developing internal leadership talent creates a highly engaged workforce, and your employees see that you value their contributions. When employees are involved, they give discretionary effort and who wouldn’t like to surround themselves with a team that goes above and beyond. Many times we believe that an external hire would be a perfect fit and in my mind, you’re better off considering someone who understands your organization and may need a little TLC to truly succeed. There certainly are times when you will want to look externally, and we’ll cover that in my next post.
5 Tips for Building Talent
Understand the KSA’s in Your Organization
Knowing the knowledge skills and abilities of your workforce helps when it comes time to look for new leaders. Consider leveraging technology to help you catalog each person’s previous experience, training, and aspirations. This can be as simple as creating a career profile on your intranet or employing succession planning technology. You’ll be surprised to learn that your emerging leaders have skills you may not have seen in action.
Go for Roughly Right vs. Perfect
You have untapped gems buried in your team. These are the folks who make things happen because they have the drive and willingness to take risks and experiment. Help them fill their skills gap through training and development. Providing these individuals with the support to grow and learn will reap rewards across your business. People will see that you’re invested in their success.
Leverage Experiences, Training and Connections
70% of learning should be through experiences as this method of learning is the stickiest. Our future leaders need experience in all facets of the business to succeed in tomorrow’s organization. I recently worked with a leader in the insurance industry who believes every aspiring leader should work in IT. With technology driving the future of business, I couldn’t agree more.
Create Lattices vs. Ladders
The traditional career ladder is outdated as organizations innovate, collaborate and succeed. Creating opportunities to move across functions will give your future leaders exposure to how the organization functions. This career path methodology is particularly helpful to keep Millennials engaged and allow them to take on new responsibilities. Design a reward system that supports this type of career path.
Capitalize on Strengths
Too often we spend time trying to develop an employee’s weakness when we should be harnessing his/her strengths. Your future leader’s weakness will be someone else’s strength. As we put high performing teams together, we must look at complimentary skills. I’m working with a food service organization where innovation is a key competency for a leader. We’ve put people in place with this strength and added team members who are strong operators.
When working with organizations, I always challenge the team to look internally for talent that understands the culture, shares the vision and has demonstrated that they can execute against strategic goals. I get the need to go outside of the organization at times to acquire a skill set not present or to infuse new ideas. With proper planning and a set of guiding principles, I believe that businesses, non-profits and municipalities can build their leadership pipeline.