Talent development is—or at least should be—a key aspect of any organization’s long-term goal and succession planning. It’s also one of the most challenging. Top leaders and top talent don’t fit neatly into predefined molds. What works for some will fall short with others. This means that organizations should be taking a pragmatic approach to employee development that focuses not on preconceived notions of how a talent development program should work but on what works best for the organization.
In an interview with Guardian Life Insurance Company CEO Deanna Mulligan conducted by consulting firm McKinsey & Company’s Rik Kirkland, Mulligan argues in favor of such a pragmatic approach. “Let’s try to push forward the people who really drive the business,” she says when describing Guardian Life’s approach. “Let’s make sure that we’re looking at people at all levels in the organization for what they do, and how they serve the customer, as opposed to where they are in the hierarchy.”
Here are just a few reasons a flexible approach is key to leadership development.
Different Learning Speeds
Not everyone learns at the same pace. Putting a group of potential leaders through the same, rigid development process will leave some bored and disengaged while others potentially fall behind.
Different Skill Sets
Talent comes in many different forms. Being in tune to the specific and unique skills of each employee is crucial to identifying and capitalizing on the best attributes of your potential talent.
While you may want to push talented individuals toward certain areas of a business, you’ll find them far more engaged if they have at least some control over their careers. Different employees have different interests, and while it’s not always possible to perfectly align their career paths with their interests, a little flexibility can go a long way.
Many Needs in Most Organizations
The last few points focused on why flexibility in talent development is important. But it’s also necessary to point out that many organizations can be flexible. There are typically many areas of need for new talent, meaning there’s often room to be flexible with an employee’s development path. In an environment where new jobs are emerging and old jobs are being replaced by technology, flexibility matters more than ever. A one-size-fits-all approach no longer works, if it ever did.
Today’s employees need to receive training that supports their current competency levels while providing insights, information, and new competencies that will help them provide value to the organization. A flexible approach to talent development is key to getting the most benefit out of the most employees.