Employee Development 501

In a spotlight article in Harvard Business Review, Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, Boris Groysberg, and Nitin Nohria looked at how to develop and retain the high potential employees in your organization.  This blog series will continue today with how to develop a program of learning for those employees.

The researchers found that the best companies in their studies look for a good balance of challenging and motivating their employees while involving senior leadership in key activities like mentoring.  This development program must include self-directed learning, training, and on-the-job development opportunities.  A combination of targeted mentoring, education, coaching and those on-the-job experiences will have a considerable impact on an employees’ motivations and capabilities.

At one Eastern European financial services company, the researchers found a classic, formal program of combining their potential’s regular jobs and stretch assignments, with a 15 month business school education was highly effective.  They reviewed cases studies with faculty and received in-house coaching consecutively.  At the conclusion of the program they get a 3-6 month foreign assignment that is carefully chosen to provide personal development in a closely related job area.

The leadership in your organization is key to a successful development program.  These high potentials need both formal programming and informal conversation as well as networking time with senior executives who can be an accessible model of leadership.  At one major pharmaceutical company the CEO and other senior leaders met one-on-one with the high potentials.  The leadership would gain great insight into each employee’s experiences with the program which offered valuable feedback, closer relationships, and the employee has a great sense of their own value in the organization.

Developing such a program takes a large investment of time across the corporate structure.  Therefore, it is important to thoughtfully plan out a course of study and leadership interaction that has buy-in from all levels.  This can take an enormous amount of energy, planning, and negotiating; but is worth every bit of investment in training and retention of your most valuable employees.


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