Recognizing that product or service differentiation may no longer be the means to achieve competitive advantage in a rapidly changing market, companies are beginning to make critical investments in finding and developing top-performing leadership talent. As HR departments, C-suites, and boards collaborate in these efforts, there are three key dimensions – "3D" – that come into play.
Collecting data and making decisions based on that data has been prevalent in marketing, supply chain, and finance for some time, but has only recently entered the talent acquisition and development arena; here, it is used to analyze the competitive talent market, as well as existing employees and culture, and to subsequently drive recruitment and development planning and ensure the hiring and retention of the right talent. Within the organization, leadership competencies are assessed to build a performance model for each position; on a broader scale, the behavioral style, attributes, and culture of departments or of the company as a whole are analyzed to create a "cultural fit algorithm." Measuring potential candidates against the assembled data allows for not only successful recruitment, but for effective coaching of incoming executives to ensure long-term success. In addition, quantifying areas such as mission, adaptability, innovation, interpersonal sensitivity, learning approach, and prudence, means that recruiters can employ objective data rather than subjective "guesses" in the process of talent selection.
After selection, the second element of the "3D" approach is effective onboarding. A 2009 study from The Aberdeen Group reported that "66% of companies with onboarding programs claimed a higher rate of successful assimilation of new hires into company culture, 62% had higher time-to-productivity ratios, and 54% reported higher employee engagement." Combining administrative 90-day diagnostic assessments of recently hired executives with 360-degree input from peers and direct reports will highlight the gaps that need to be addressed by development plans. These plans – supported by not only HR, but by the C-suite and other key stakeholders – communicate obstacles to success and perceived areas of cultural dissonance between the executive and the organization, and provide an opportune time to leverage the previously-mentioned evidence-based data the company has gathered.
Once executives have been carefully selected and onboarded, the final of the three dimensions is ensuring their growth. To do this effectively, it is first necessary to define "high-potential" and to define the characteristics of the ideal leader for each role, leading to the creation of a progressive, repeatable program that includes the assignment of mentors and the careful monitoring of each high-potential leader. In this process, maintaining open dialog with high-potential leaders enables an understanding of their career aspirations, strengths, and weaknesses, and the creation of individualized, collaborative, and measurable plans for growth.
By recognizing the value of their human assets and leveraging evidence-based decision-making in the hiring process, effective onboarding programs, and the development of existing employees into stronger leaders, organizations will be well poised to face the challenges of their current and future business environments.