The global FMCG leader had been feeling the pressure of growing competition in their India -operations for some time. They had also witnessed loss of a few high potential managers at mid-levels to competitors who were happy to woo them with positions and compensation-packages in order to get ready, high quality talent. The client had a mounting realization that their career- growth model was not tuned to the aspirations of high potential talent in terms of challenges, opportunities, growth, reward and recognition. They needed to stem the flow soon.
Over the years, this has become an increasingly familiar challenge in many organizations we work with. While the organizations focus much energies on hiring the best, the conundrum of retaining the brighter amongst them seems to be far more complicated and almost always with feelings of being let down on either side. Some of the proactive organizations like above realize the need for a systemic solution and choose to reach out for professional help. Through this and other such assignments, I have keenly observed and tethered the power of developing Hi-Potential talent in organizations in a systematic, long term and holistic manner to develop leadership capacities and competencies from deep within. Here are some of the key principles, which if implemented carefully, will in my opinion, yield powerful results:
The fundamental Principles of designing a high potential intervention
1. Recognize and leverage the canopy of Influence of Hi-pots. When we accelerate their development, we influence the entire canopy with them and in turn large parts of the organization get accelerated in their development and ability to perform.
2. Customize the developmental intervention to suit the requirement of the organization. A deep analysis consisting of conversations with multiple stakeholders across the organization is the critical first step. In this case, the two major gap areas that emerged were a lack of perceived growth opportunities within the current system and a lack of hope that the situation could be changed given the culture of the organization.
Hi-Pot development is not about their existing level, it is about their next level. So how do we choose what needs to change and ensure its sustainability? Any developmental intervention is about observable behaviors and changing the disabling ones through creating realization. So the journey of Unconscious Incompetency to Conscious Incompetency to Conscious Competency and finally to Unconscious Competency ensures sustainable capacity development.
3. Create a developmental intervention design that leverages peer-learning. This is because when we put high performing individuals together, we tend to accelerate their own learning, performance as well as aspirational capability. At the same time, each Hi-Pot is on a path of her own, with unique capacity and competency gaps which need specific, customized inputs. This is delivered through a developmental journey with a combination of group workshops, transformational coaching and action-learning projects. The one-on-one coaching sessions were built around deep self-awareness and enabled them to apply the Get Real constructs in their life.
4. The principle of choosing the action learning projects or ALPs. It is important to recognize that this is not business as usual scenario for the learners. The ALPs have to be designed very carefully at the periphery of the business and not at the center of it as the Hi-Pots will have to leverage competencies they either don’t possess or are at a lower level of maturity than needed. It is important to choose the tasks carefully and then organize them around business so that the ALP delivers business impact but allows learning from failures as well.
5. The role of the sponsor is yet another critical principle that can either transform or de-energise the whole process. We need a senior leader as the sponsor, protecting and creating the platform for the journey farers to display and demonstrate their capabilities. The sponsor therefore has to be a big churner of energy and drive the salutary impact of such an initiative on the performance of the entire organization by making it high-performing and aspirational. In the FMCG co, the CEO and his LT were the sponsors thereby infusing the entire process with guidance, decisions and opportunities.
6. Lastly, how do we continue the change process after the formal intervention is over? The journey itself is just the beginning. How do we wrap it up and launch them out on their own to apply their learning and yet remain connected? The principle is that of creating the ability to continuously use the metacapacity of learnability, ensuring they remain lifelong learners thereby accelerating their ability in whatever career they choose in the future.
The program has become a flagship developmental initiative for the organisation and is now in its 7th year. What excited and inspired me was some of the visible impacts:
• Participants have had great visibility on the global platforms through winning accolades for their highly successful ALPs that ranged from increasing market share, penetrating rural markets, optimising the distribution system, mastering modern trade, sustainability and environmental protection etc.
• A whopping percentage of the participants have fast tracked through the organisation- getting promoted faster, seconded to geographies around the world, assigned higher responsibilities and larger teams.
• The program has become one of the most aspirational rewards for the employees with a clamour to get selected every year.
• Apart from Awards, the program received appreciation from the global parent organisation for its uniqueness in developing holistic leadership capacities and competencies, going way beyond its existing competency framework.
And what gave me immense satisfaction was what the CEO had to say:
“If you ask me whether we should continue this program over the coming years, I have only one thing to say. The program should not be limited to India region. Looking at the way we are benefiting, and how the people are learning and growing, it needs to be made a global offering. I am instructing my HR to take it to the head office as a global HR initiative.”
Get Real is a Vyaktitva proprietary leadership development construct and process.