Ok, so we’ve identified our top talent. Now what do we do with them?

This week I am posting part 5 of a 5-part series that answers common questions about succession planning.

Last week I addressed the question: Now that people are on board, how can we identify our top talent?

This week, we’ve reached the final question: Ok, so we’ve identified our top talent. Now what do we do with them?

The knee-jerk response is often to “send talent pool X to a training program”. Yet, there is growing realization that using ‘experiences’ to drive leadership growth is more impactful (not to mention, cost-effective). Most critical learning experiences do not happen at a course or a workshop. Rather, they happen on-the-job, ‘in the line of fire.’ Here are suggestions for using experiences to drive leadership growth:

1. Give high-potentials stretch assignments. When doing so, give them the support to be successful — don’t just let them ‘sink or swim.’

2. Create new experiences — new positions, roles, assignments — specifically to expose high potentials to them. Ensure that these experiences align with the strategic needs of the business.

3. Reserve specific jobs for development, ones that produce huge learning and growth, and move high potentials into them.

4. Assign a high potential as a ‘second in command’ to a significant role, and allow them to take over key responsibilities to enhance their growth.

5. When a senior leader travels, ask them to take a high potential with them to provide networking opportunities and exposure.

Here are also some broader considerations when designing a high-potential program:

1. Create a ‘portfolio’ of experiences you want high-potentials to acquire (e.g., manage in two functions, in two businesses, in two geographies; manage across five business cycles).

2. For key positions (e.g., executive roles), identify ‘experience paths’ — a collection of critical experiences the applicant must acquire before they can be considered.

3. Staff projects with development in mind, asking ‘who can learn the most from this?’ rather than ‘who can perform best right now?’

Implementing even some of these ideas can put your high-potentials on the path to growing into their next leadership role.

I sincerely hope that this blog series has provided some ideas, tips, and tricks for improving succession planning in your organization. Please reach out to me via LinkedIn or email (lschneider@jacksonleadership.com) if you would like to discuss in more detail! I’d be happy to hear from you.