Article: Developing People Managers at American Express

A Brand Reachout InitiativeLeadership Development

Developing People Managers at American Express


Besides a regular high potential program, the company has instituted a special program to improve diversity at senior ranks
Developing People Managers at American Express

Creating people managers is one of the fundamental pillars of American Express. And therefore, the company has put in a lot of effort to identify the competencies for developing their people managers. But, before we get into that, let’s take a look at how good people managers are spotted in the first place.

American Express has a well-established Leadership Competency Framework, which highlights typical behaviors that every People Leader at American Express is required to exhibit. Every employee gets an “L” rating and a “G” rating. “L” rating highlights the potential of an employee to move vertically and take up people leadership roles. Additionally, above a certain Band, Potential Assessment is done through specific scientific tools. The G rating is goal based. Subsequently, each employee is plotted on a 9-Box Grid (Performance v/s Potential), which forms the basis for all Career Progression related decisions.

Employees with High Potential and High/Solid Performance are looked at being ready for people management roles, whereas employees with solid potential and solid performance are looked at taking up people management roles in due time as there still exists a need to develop certain leadership competencies in them. Employees with low potential but high/solid performance are then considered as experts or specialists with domain knowledge. They are later developed as Subject Matter Experts.

Each of the people manager competencies can be broadly classified into four broad pillars of leadership model – Create Our Future, Inspire Our People, Excite Our Customers, Deliver on the Promise.

Every employee is expected to improve his/her performance and capability year on year and hence development plans are created to help employees achieve their business and personal goals. Amex has a segmented approach to development—exposure (70% of development happens on-the-job), experience (20% through relationship and discussion based learning) and education (10% through formal knowledge or skill transfer).

Besides the segmented approach to development, they also have a tiered approach towards providing targeted and sequenced learning based on the career stage of the individual, which includes aspects from Aspiring Leaders, First Level Leaders and Leaders of Leaders.

The Structured Talent Enhancement Program (STEP) aims at enhancing the leadership capability of high potential middle level managers by providing them exposure to complex assignments, learning and development interventions, senior leaders as mentors, experiential learning and senior leadership visibility. Spanning over six months, the program has successfully enabled more than 95% of people into leadership positions.

Another in-house leadership development program that American Express offers is the Leadership Academy. It is a six-month long training intervention to groom high potential talent, who undergo a rigorous selection process.

Apart from this, American Express also has a Global Rotation Program that provides on-the-job experience for Bands 35 and 40 high potential employees to develop their global mindset in a new line of business or location. The Platinum Leadership Program provides great opportunities and exposure to selected High Potential frontline people leaders and creates a pipeline for succession planning.

Besides the regular HiPo programs, Amex has also instituted a separate program for women leaders—Pathways To Sponsorship - Accelerate Your Growth. This program aims to create diverse leadership bench strength and pipeline by accelerating development, engagement & retention of the participants. The program is both highly visible and impactful and was instituted to address the need of diversity at senior levels. Every program at Amex is designed to keep just one thing in mind: Developing capabilities of each individual and creating a non-stop supply of talent for leadership. 

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Topics: Leadership Development, #HiPoWeek

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