Building a sustainable pipeline
Most global business leaders would agree that the past few years have been quite challenging. Unlike the handful of emerging markets that have experienced multi-year growth rates in excess of 5 per cent, much of the world has been facing unprecedented levels of economic turmoil. Organisations operating across these distinctly different economic environments have been making radically different choices about their futures and the talent needed to execute on the options that lie before them. An example of this is playing out right now in India with stark differences in the opportunities for talent across industries such as automotive and airlines.
As these markets and industries shift to alternatives states of growth, stagnation or decline CEOs continue to ask tough questions of their HR and talent advisors about the quality, quantity and readiness of leaders across all levels of the organisation to navigate these turbulent waters. So what should they be doing to ensure a steadier supply of quality leaders across the business? Here are a few best practices to consider for your business.
Build on your business drivers: Business drivers are the foundation of a talent management strategy. They represent those challenges that leaders must conquer in order to successfully execute the strategic and cultural priorities of the organisation. They guide pipeline strategies; represent the goals and critical needs against which leaders must be identified, assessed and developed. Their role becomes even more crucial in the light of increased levels of competition. Knowing who your best leaders are under each of the major business drivers is key to emerging ahead of the competition.
Use an acceleration pool: An acceleration pool is a systematic method for identifying and developing high-potential people to fill positions at the next level of leadership. These pools are important because they focus efforts on those individuals who represent the highest returns on an organisation’s investment in assessment and development.
Manage leadership and personal transitions: Transitioning leaders into a new role is an essential step in a pipeline strategy. But with new responsibility comes new challenges that organisations need to recognise and support. Research shows that making a transition at work is among life’s most stressful personal challenges. Leaders need to begin developing skills needed in a target role before they transition into it, and organisations should facilitate that development. Having clear, detailed and aligned transition processes with the appropriate support for leaders stepping ‘in-to’ or ‘up-to’ a new role can mean the difference between success and failure.
Define success: Success profiles are created for positions and describe the knowledge, experience, competencies and personal attributes required for success. Success profiles clearly define what success looks like at each level and provide a common language to describe high-performing talent. It is a holistic approach to matching the right leaders with the right position and can inform the time to readiness so critical to the flow across the pipeline.
Making your pipeline sustainable: Your leadership pipeline needs to deliver leaders who will deliver business results. While it’s important to connect pipeline success with key business metrics, this is not enough to ensure sustainable results over the long haul.
Typically there are five sustainability factors that move talent management beyond a short-term initiative. These are: Ongoing senior-level communication and commitment, cascading accountability for talent development, ongoing skill and competency development, key systems alignment, and development of both lead indicators and lag measures.
As a business process that crosses organisational levels and boundaries, a robust, free-flowing leadership pipeline contains many “moving parts,” some of which are highly specialised and technical. Few organisations have the capability or capacity to deliver every element of an effective talent management process. While every organisation’s needs are different, when it comes to selecting a pipeline partner, organisations should look for four core capabilities, namely the ability to connect to your business and talent strategies; span all levels of leadership; have a strong research base and proven experience; and provide sustainable success.