Three Reasons You Should Have a Leadership Program
Written by Kyle Lagunas
Why is the process of finding a leader--whether to backfill someone or to fill a new role--often treated as an isolated event rather than an ongoing process? With the cost per hire only rising, why do so few organizations have a process for identifying and cultivating leaders within their existing talent pool?
Neil Nicoll, President and CEO of YMCA warned us in Finding Leaders for America's Nonprofits: Commentaries that, “Until [we] become much more intentional about development of internal talent, we are doomed to an ever-growing leadership deficit.” That was three years ago.
Companies need to change the way they are sourcing leadership talent. Rather than look outward when a leader is needed, they should instead continuously look inward to identify candidates with leadership aptitude and invest in honing their skills with development programs.
Regardless of whether you ultimately hire leaders from within, simply having a leadership development program yields important benefits for any organization. Here are reasons to do it:
Leadership Programs Boost Employee Engagement
A study conducted by ACCOR found that although 90% of leaders say employee engagement impacts business success, 75% have no engagement plan or strategy. To that end, development programs give employees the opportunity to strive toward something more meaningful and valuable than their day-to-day work. And that makes them happy.
Leadership development is serious stuff. It takes time and dedication to make it work. If you’re going to adopt an official leadership development program, be sure to first identify your goals for the program.
Leadership Programs Increase Employee Performance
It’s hard to deny a linkage between development and performance. As John Robak, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Greeley and Hansen, attests, “Those individuals in our organization who are inspired tend to outperform. That’s because the more well-rounded you are, the better you’re able to perform.”
Makes sense, right? The companies outperforming you certainly think so. In fact, the highest performing organizations spend 36% more on development than their less successful counterparts. And the organizations that are doing this effectively understand what their future needs are going to be, and understand how to engage their potentials and give them the opportunity to develop the skills that they need to succeed in the operation.
Leadership Programs Improve Retention Rates
Many organizations see investments in employee development--leadership development, in particular--as a gamble. If the employee leaves, those investments walk out the door and potentially into the hands of a competitor. For those who cite turnover as a reason not to invest in developing employees, though, the truth is that leadership development and opportunities are actually a leading retention strategy.
“Gen Y tends to be more fluid and move more frequently, which can be intimidating for employers worried about turnover. We see the exact opposite,” says Robak.
Don’t get me wrong--turnover is a valid concern, but if you’re hemorrhaging top performers, it’s rarely because you’ve invested too much in developing them.
Transparency is King in Leadership Development
As Roback points out, “In the absence of feedback, people tend to create their own.” Whatever decision is made--whether it’s a promotion from within or an external hire, it’s critical to communicate the why. Robak goes on to say that, “We don’t just want our message to be heard--we want to ensure it’s received.” Otherwise, all of your best intentions are for naught.
What successes have you had in developing leaders internally? What challenges is your organization faced with when developing a pool of leadership candidates?
About the Author: Kyle Lagunas is an HR Analyst at Software Advice. He reports on important news, interesting conversations, and what's trending in the world of talent management, human resources, and recruiting.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.