Talent development is a key responsibility of senior management and their HR partners. Hiring the right talent and grooming them to become successful leaders is not only imperative for business success but it also helps to retain employee retention and satisfaction. Below are the top three tips for talent and leadership development success based on expert research and insights.
1. Gain cross functional experience
In many large organizations, it's common practice for managers to move up within a functional area and become technical experts in their field. However, to reach the C-Suite, an understanding of other functions is a major plus. Ultimately, many CEOs want their executives to take a company-wide perspective rather than a narrow functional view.
The link between having a cross functional experience and reaching top jobs came across clearly in a Linkedin study analyzing the profiles of over 450,000 managers over time. When the Linkedin researchers looked at the 64,000 members who ended up in a VP or C-level position, one of the most significant factors in their profiles was the fact they had gained experience in multiple functions.
2. Practice strategic, business and finance acumen
When interviewing candidates for senior jobs and looking at their credentials, executives tend to probe their strategic, business and finance acumen. As one of our executives observed, “the closer you get to the top, the more you focus on the bottom line”.
Skilling up managers in these areas is essential, especially in companies with a lot of scientists and engineers who do not have a formal business education.
In her popular Ted Talk The career advice you probably didn’t get, Susan Colantuono makes the point that women may have skills gaps in these areas in part because of unconscious bias by male mentors.
3. Relentlessly prioritize your resources
As managers move up in the organization, they manage larger budgets and teams. The pressure on their limited time increases. It becomes essential that they learn to prioritize their resources.
In an interview, Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance had this to say: “If you don’t know how to prioritize, if you’re not very disciplined, if you cannot plan and organize your work, you’re dead.”
How to train your talent to the top
Implementing rotational programs for young talent is a great way to enable cross functional experience. It is also beneficial to give more experienced managers the opportunity to move across functions. One global company created a program offering managers to swap jobs for one year with a peer in a different function and a different country. They expected a few takers but the program became popular and helped surface and develop top talent.
Teaching strategic, business and finance acumen is essential for enabling talent to move to the top but it should be supported by finding ways for talent to include this new knowledge in their routine. For instance, ensure they always include a business case when presenting a new program or initiative in their area. Here are three secrets to unlocking business acumen.
When it comes to prioritizing one’s time and budget, managers can learn to differentiate between what’s urgent vs. important, make a list of both stop doing and start doing items and use a zero-based budget approach, as if they were starting the business anew.
Experiential learning: Giving managers exposure and practice
Experiencing a new function or learning to think strategically can take time, and not everyone in your talent pool might be ready for this. We have found that it is helpful to give managers exposure to these areas and a chance to practice.
In partnership with clients, we have created experiential leadership development programs targeting mid to senior level, cross-functional managers. Cross-functional teams are immersed in a competitive business simulation challenge. This helps managers network with their peers from other functions. The simulation challenges them to adopt an enterprise-wide perspective, not just a functional one. Teams learn to think strategically and to prioritize their resources within a limited budget, considering short and mid-term trade-offs.
Download our free experiential learning guide to discover how you can use experiential learning for talent development within your organization.