Recruiting highly skilled roles is tough enough. It’s even more challenging to recruit for leadership roles that will heavily influence the direction and performance of your company, and to make sure those candidates are experienced, diverse, and aligned with your company culture. Not only is leadership recruitment a challenging process, but it can also be a time-intensive and expensive one, costing as much as a third of an executive’s salary to fill one role.
It makes sense, then, that many companies want to build that pipeline of talent from within.
We connected with John Baldoni, executive coach and leadership educator, author of GRACE: A leader's guide to a better us, to find out how companies can start identifying employees with leadership potential and building a leadership talent pipeline within their company.
Glassdoor: How do companies normally fill leadership roles?
John Baldoni: There’s not a lot of hard data that can answer that question, but] In my experience, most people hire from within to build their leadership team because there’s already an established baseline of trust there. They only go outside the company when they don’t have the talent or when they’re in expansion mode and need to bring in new skills or a new perspective. Growing organizations are constantly challenged to meet new opportunities, and if they don’t have the ability to meet those challenges within their existing talent pool, they need to recruit it.
Glassdoor: How do you think a talent shortage impacts these decisions?
John Baldoni: In our economy right now, employers are desperate for talent. That’s one reason why so many companies are asking to increase visas for skills and knowledge workers. Companies need to treat their people well and offer advancement opportunities in order to build a desirable employer brand and be an employer of choice – if they don’t, your people will leave and you’ll have a hard time attracting candidates with leadership potential.
Glassdoor: What are some common obstacles to building a leadership talent pipeline?
John Baldoni: A company’s existing bureaucracy can get in the way of getting the right employees connected with the right growing opportunities. It can also be a problem of time management. Building leadership skills requires active engagement from leaders at the top of the company and from the employee. If executives can’t or won’t make it a priority or if an employee doesn’t have the desire to invest in their growth, the effort will not succeed. Finally, there’s a question of reciprocity. Employees want to know that if they’re selected and they give it their all, their mentors will reciprocate.
Glassdoor: What are the characteristics executives can look out for to identify employees with leadership potential?
John Baldoni: Four characteristics really stand out as clear signs an employee is ready to develop formal leadership skills:
Competence. They have been trained properly to do their job and they understand their role in the company. Their performance is solid all around.
Engagement. A step beyond competence, the employee is engaged and wants to make a positive difference in the company. They want to be there, and it shows in how they engage with their co-workers. Some of the best leaders in a company are actually on the front lines of the organization dealing with customers and colleagues daily. Those are the kind of people you want to promote because those are the kind of people that others in your organization will want to work with.
Business acumen. They either understand the business and the bigger picture of how their role contributes to the company, or they show an interest in learning about that connection. It’s management’s responsibility to provide that information for employees that have the capacity and interest to understand it.
Growth mindset. No one can predict what skills or roles will be necessary in the future. So you need to hire and promote people who have the capacity for growth and the willingness to invest their time and energy in learning new skills. Whether their strengths are technical and they need to develop their soft skills, or their strengths are general and they need to learn new technologies, an employee with leadership potential will show this kind of flexibility.