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Leadership Development in 2023: Supporting Employee Advancement

A solid leadership development/employee advancement plan directly impacts retention

Elle Mason

by Elle Mason - June 1st, 2023

While we all might occasionally fantasize about a long lazy life spent on the beach, humans are wired to want to contribute to society or challenge themselves in some way. Although the day-to-day vision of what that looks like will differ for all of us, one of the quickest ways to lose employee engagement is to fail them in terms of development.

Of course, some roles are tedious or monotonous by nature. Still, without sufficient opportunities to stretch themselves, introduce variety, or develop and grow, most employees will eventually become demotivated and less productive over time – making leadership development and employee growth and advancement plans a critical need across industries.

Though leadership development and supporting employee advancement has always been part of the HR agenda, The Great Resignation and the desperate need to retain employees in the present time have further emphasized the need for HR to have a solid leadership development plan or an employee advancement and growth plan.

What is a leadership development plan, and what are the benefits?

From an HR perspective, leadership development can broadly be defined as general activities designed to assess, improve and promote the skills of people in the organization. There is often an emphasis on focusing specifically on current or potential future management, but these activities can be applied to anyone at any level. This may come through mentorship, coaching, training, and beyond.

There are a number of benefits of leadership development to employees and the organization as a whole. To start, managers can begin building a succession pipeline for their eventual departure, and in the meantime, enjoy a more empowered and competent workforce through ongoing development. Leadership development can also be linked and aligned to the broader business strategy and goals, and support the organizational mission and strategic plans. Lastly, employees are able to benefit from being stretched, challenged, and improved in ways that are often transferrable to their daily life or future career plans.

Ultimately, investing in leadership development can bring improved organizational alignment, and subsequently, strong financial and bottom-line performance, in addition to enhancing an organization’s ability to attract and retain talent, better customer outcomes, and a strengthened sense of adaptability to response to change.

What is HR’s role in leadership development and career advancement, and why is this effort even more important now than before?

HR plays a critical role in leadership development. Management doesn’t always have insight into which roles correspond directly to a particular strategy - but HR typically does. Further, HR is positioned to generate buy-in and work alongside leadership. But the needs go beyond support – HR can also lead the training, development, and promotional structures and create systems for identifying leaders, assessing skills gaps, and growing employees. Lastly, because of the way that the function overlaps with other leadership areas, HR is primed to keep the process employee-centered and team-based.

According to research, the intergenerational nature of work is making this more critical than ever. Millennials comprise almost half of the workforce, but a large percentage of them plan to stay at their job for fewer than 3 years. This is a stark contrast to previous generations who often aimed to stay at a company as long as possible. And with 10,000 baby boomers retiring each day, there will be a leadership shortage soon if these trends persist.

How can you create or begin to consider an HR leadership development plan or program?

Leadership development will look drastically different depending on your industry and the role that you’re aiming to develop. While mentorship might be the best fit for others, training and upskilling will be critical for others. But in order to get started, HR leaders and managers should reflect on these key questions.

What are the critical skills for an employee to master? In order to determine this, leaders should have a baseline understanding of the skills that will be needed in the future, which they can determine with the help of leadership. The skills can also be ranked or weighted for importance and/or value. Some skills that may be critical when you’re an individual contributor are nearly irrelevant when you’re managing – since you’ll oversee a team who is making contributions in that phase.

What gaps have you identified between the current state and the end state? Once you’ve defined the skills needed, an assessment of the employee’s current skills should be undertaken in order to determine the size of the gap and what they’ve already mastered versus where there’s room for improvement. A Senior Programmer, for example, may not need additional technical knowledge, but learning how to delegate or coach people is a new area that they can grow into.

What relationships need to be built? Developing and fostering relationships becomes increasingly important as employees develop into future leaders. Learning who the key stakeholders are, how everyone functions together, and managing those relationships will be critical to define.

What tasks need to be delegated? This can work in several ways. Current leaders need to determine how they can slowly begin to delegate their current tasks in order to help hone the skills of their next leaders. Similarly, aspiring leaders who are training to move to the next level may begin delegating tasks to the people who report to them in order to help train that generation and focus on new duties.

All of these questions and considerations will help bring clarity to the best approach for your leadership development plan while also helping you to identify early who could potentially be a good fit. But leadership development doesn’t have to be another item on your always-growing to-do list – GoCo can help!

Gauge Employee Sentiment - With GoCo’s employee survey checklist automation workflow, HR can easily create standardized questions and report on data to better understand how to support employees and their growth goals.

Performance reviews - Automated performance reviews in GoCo allow employees to track past progress between reviews, identify the next milestones, and understand how to achieve their goals. They can track feedback, add notes, and review with their direct managers.

An HRIS that Empowers Employees - Having a digital HRIS where employees are empowered to see all of the company’s policies and time-off information helps make it so that there are no surprises for them and they are constantly in the loop with their progress and their data.