Each year, our “What’s Keeping HR Up at Night” survey asks HRE readers to share some of the challenges that keep them counting sheep in the wee hours.
We recently closed this year’s poll—the results of which you can find in our upcoming July/August print and digital editions. While the findings yielded some surprises— as they always do—HR’s biggest woes remain pretty much the same in 2015. When asked to identify the biggest HR challenges facing their organization today, the most common replies were “ensuring employees remain engaged and productive” (39 percent), “retaining key talent” (26 percent), and “developing leaders” (24 percent). These issues have comprised the top three challenges among our readership for three years running.
CHROs at some firms, however, are apparently sleeping more soundly than others, at least as far as leadership development is concerned.
Earlier this week, I had a chance to listen to HR leaders at a handful of organizations who excel in this area; so much so that they earned a spot on Aon Hewitt’s most recent Top Companies for Leaders list, which consists of 25 organizations singled out for their strength of leadership practices and culture, examples of leadership development on a global scale, alignment of business and leadership strategy, business performance and company reputation.
On Monday evening, representatives from 23 of these 25 companies converged on General Electric’s picturesque GE Crotonville campus in Ossining, N.Y. There, they would spend the next two days talking about some of the leadership development efforts that landed them on the guest list for “the party that everyone wants to attend,” said Pete Sanborn, the Atlanta-based global practice leader of Aon’s talent and organizational practice group, in kicking off Tuesday morning’s activities by individually acknowledging each of the Top Companies and the characteristics that set them apart.
One trait shared by these organizations is a knack for finding and nurturing potential leaders early on in their careers, and setting them on the leadership track.
As part of a Tuesday morning panel presentation, GE’s Peter Cavanaugh and Belinda Tang from IBM Corp. discussed approaches to identifying and assessing young, would-be leaders. (GE and IBM hold the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on Aon’s latest Top Companies for Leaders list, respectively.)
Entry-level leadership initiatives are certainly “not a new concept,” said Cavanaugh, global learning and operations leader at GE.
Such programs, however, “provide a framework for taking new approaches to developing leaders,” he said.
GE, for example, selects certain entry-level employees to work on high-level project groups, providing ideas and input, and, moreover, getting a taste of what it’s like to lead a team.
At IBM, the Armonk, N.Y.-based technology company has introduced Consulting by Degrees, a developmental program designed to groom top, entry-level business consultants to one day fill leadership positions.
Within the program, these young IBMers “are operating like senior consultants,” said Tang, vice president of global leadership development at IBM.
Participants build core skills over a two-year period, performing work for clients and returning to the classroom every six months to practice speaking with clients and “doing the things that make a great consultant” before deciding the area in which they want to specialize, she said.
Getting broad leadership experience under their belts in their early days at IBM helps these high-potential consultants find a niche within the organization—regardless of their pedigree, Tang told the audience.
“We hire the best athlete,” she said. “We’ve had dance majors who have flourished with us.”Twitter It!