6 Tips for Effective Executive Development Programs
As we continue to see signs of improvement in the global economy, talent management and leadership development are taking a more prominent position on how companies can prepare for future growth.
Recruiters at top organizations are successfully plucking top talent from competitors who fail to offer challenging work assignments, robust development opportunities, and sufficient reward and recognition. Talent mobility – the idea that top performers now have more choices than ever on where they decide to work – is no longer an abstract concept.
Ernst and Young recently surveyed nearly 600 senior executives at global organizations and found some not-so-surprising gaps between top-performing companies (based on revenue growth and EBITDA) and their lower-performing counterparts, when it comes to developing leaders and managing talent.
The headline here is that top performers manage their talent better than low performing competitors. More specifically, the survey found:
- 55% of top performers provide customized training and development, compared with only 47% of the low performers group
- 54% of top-performing organizations have a strong talent pipeline, compared with 43% of low performers
- Top performers are 15% more likely to have robust succession planning in place
- When developing talent for the C-suite, top performers are 10% more likely to search for people who can successfully lead in a global environment
While some of these gaps may not seem like a huge difference, imagine the compounding effect when spread across a global enterprise.
When it comes to leadership development, there are several ways organizations can emulate the top performers from above. Here are 6 tips for effective executive development programs:
1. Start with an honest assessment of your current leadership team
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses – and being completely open about where and why gaps exist – will give you a baseline from which to work towards improvement. It’s hard to know where you’re going in terms of talent management without knowing where you are today.
2. Align leadership development with your organization’s strategic initiatives
Too many times, leadership development is not tied to organizational objectives or the overall business strategy. It instead becomes a check-in-the-box exercise. Decisions on the strategic direction of a business should always include discussion on the talents’ needs to carry out those decisions.
A shift in strategy almost certainly carries with it a shift in responsibilities of leaders and their teams. Similarly, an organization’s development programs should be designed to support these strategic shifts.
3. Allow for Collaboration
Sending hand-picked executives to a weekend workshop or leadership training program may increase individual capabilities, but the knowledge gained won’t be transferred to others in the organization. Even if there’s an honest effort to bring the learning back to the team, many of the concepts could be lost in translation.
Additionally, this type of executive development – that occurs in silos – only compounds the daily communication challenges that leadership teams face. Instead, companies should work to find ways to develop executives as a team, encourage collaboration, increase communication, and improve overall team performance.
4. Emphasize Outside Perspectives
Leadership development, which is created and delivered entirely from within an organization, will normally include a certain level of bias. As job requirements continue to evolve based on the changing economic landscape, so should leadership development initiatives.
Providing a good level of external perspective, whether through an outside facilitator or expert resource speakers, will help expand the view of leaders beyond company walls.
5. Leverage the Experience of the Team
Balancing outside perspectives with the expertise that already resides within the leadership ranks, will help executives gain a sense ownership of their personal and group development. It also acknowledges the many unique and incredible talents that got them there in the first place.
6. Be Flexible
Famed leadership author Peter Drucker once wrote, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”
Designing a leadership development program that is iterative and flexible is essential for adapting to the rapid changes in business. Drucker’s sentiments emphasize that your development programs should be forward-looking, not reactionary.
Whether you’re building an executive development plan from the ground up, or simply making adjustments to an existing strategy, these 6 fundamentals are essential in establishing a program that leaders will embrace and support.