One of the biggest challenges for professionals is gaining the experience needed to land the next position in their career. This mirrors one of the biggest challenges for companies – a pipeline of experienced professionals ready for the leadership positions they are hired into. A recent Deloitte study* confirms this ‘readiness gap’, with twenty-eight percent of executives rating their leadership pipelines as weak or very weak. Fifty-six percent of executives surveyed report that their companies are not ready to meet leadership needs.
This crisis of ill-prepared leadership often stems from a lack of focus on identifying and cultivating your leadership pipeline – potential leadership talent who are being equipped to run your business in the future. In this situation, your company becomes vulnerable to lagging financial performance and competitiveness over time. Your current actions are likely contributing negatively to the gap. Build intentional experience-based development into your leadership development protocol, accelerating the readiness and value of your emerging leadership talent.
Hack the Experience Gap
You can ‘hack the experience gap’ in your company with the four practices described below:
- Beyond succession planning – Identifying talent succession is just one step in your process. For each role in your succession plan, map the alternate career paths successfully leading into each role. Identify the experience and skills that needs to be gained from each role in order to prepare talent for succeeding roles. Avoid simply throwing people in to a job to see if they can swim.
- Start early in identifying talent and guiding experiences – If your succession plan or talent management process only focuses on more senior level positions, you’re missing an opportunity. To have prepared senior leaders, development begins early and over the course of their careers. Identify high potential talent early on and incorporate experience building opportunities into their career paths. Your up-and-coming millennials expect to know that there’s opportunity for them to advance. If they’re unsure, or opportunities are limited, they’re more likely to search for greener pastures.
- Utilize a variety of methods for growing experience – Experience is built over time and can be achieved through a variety of sources. You may not have the luxury of open positions to move high potential talent into as timely as would be ideal. Yet, you need to continue development and continue to offer new challenges. Following are some alternative approaches I suggest to clients.
- Special projects — Small task groups are often initiated to help implement important company or department initiatives. Recommend employees to lead or to be part of the project team. When I worked for GE, special projects often targeted reducing costs, or improving process quality or efficiency.
- Company service projects—Many companies support their communities by sponsoring volunteer projects with local non-profits. These may be short term, such as one-day fixer uppers, or longer term, such as a reading program with a local school. These are great opportunities for employees to develop skills by joining the planning committee or working with teams at an event.
- Employee resource groups—Companies sponsor these groups as resources for personal career development and employee engagement. Employees can gain experience and develop leadership skills by serving as an officer, chair, or member of a standing committee or event committee.
- Nonprofit organizations and professional associations—Nonprofits and professional associations often need people with a variety of skills to serve on boards or as volunteers. Partner with local non-profits and recommend your emerging talent to serve with them.
- Encourage employees to share ownership – The responsibility to hack the experience gap does not fall solely on the company. Employees share ownership in this goal. However, many professionals I work with don’t know how to solve their personal experience gap. As professionals determine their career goals, they should evaluate the experience needed to progress. Then, working with their manager, HR professional and mentor, map out a plan using a variety of sources to get the experience they need. The company must set the stage for this to work. Work with leaders and HR professionals to create a culture that is open to employees planning and discussing their career goals and needs. Be receptive to employees stepping up with interest in the alternative experience approaches noted above. Encourage employees to engage in this partnership.
Look for places in your organization where the experience gap exists. Where are the opportunities in your process? Choose a starting point and begin putting these strategies to work to hack your experience gap.
Where are the opportunities in your process? Choose a starting point and begin putting these strategies to work to hack your experience gap.
Choose a starting point and begin putting these strategies to work to hack your experience gap.
And if your particular experience gap is retaining millennial talent, I have created a special update to help you. You can download it here.
*2016 Global Human Capital Trends Report by Deloitte Consulting