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Find Overlooked Talent by Providing Every Employee Opportunity for Career Development

by Thuy Sindell, PhD. and Milo Sindell, MS.

Leadership coaching is typically reserved for the top one percent of employees. In other words, those nearest the top are getting all the development needed to get to and stay at the top. But what about everyone else? Do they get the same opportunities?

Without coaching and development, employees at lower levels can never reach the next step of their careers, and they never reach the top. The same people get better and move forward, while everyone else stays the same. It’s time to level the playing field.

Here’s a look at why every employee should have an equal opportunity, and what employers can do about it:

Talent doesn’t move on its own.

Employees don’t naturally flow through an organization — talent mobility and development is a conscious effort. Sure, employees learn from experience and improve on the job, but any step up, especially to a leadership position, requires new skills.

Without the proper development, employees will never learn those skills, which means they’ll never progress. Thirty-six percent of full-time employees by West Unified Communication Services in October 2015 feel training offered by their employer is not relevant to their specific job or career path.

Even if employers can’t see it, employees know they need development and leadership coaching opportunities to move forward. As it is, only 15 percent of middle managers in Global 1000 companies surveyed by Insigniam in 2014 said they think they will be promoted to the next level of management at their company.

Without equal development opportunities and leadership coaching, employees become frustrated that they will never reach their goals. And when that happens, they leave in search of better opportunities. In fact, 69 percent of employees surveyed by West Unified Communications Services said that development plays an important role in their decision to stay with their current employer.

Leadership coaching and other development opportunities are needed at every level to keep employees moving through the company and working toward their goals.

New leaders need the most development.

Equal development opportunities aren’t just needed to keep talent moving and growing, they’re needed to create better leadership throughout the organization. While executives receive the bulk of leadership coaching, it’s new leaders who need the most development.

Newly promoted leaders may be experts and may have tons of experience from their previous position, but they don’t have leadership experience. According to Gallup’s 2015 State of the American Manager Report, which studied 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries, the top two reasons employees are promoted to management positions are because they were successful in a non-managerial role, and they have experience and tenure with the company — not because they have leadership potential or experience.

Don’t count on these employees to be natural leaders either — the Gallup report suggests there is no such thing. The study found that just 18 percent of current managers have the talent required for the role. However, those with some, not all, leadership traits can function at a high level if their employer invests in coaching and development.

Without leadership coaching, employees are left to figure it out on their own, and they aren’t likely to be successful. Which means employers have ineffective leadership throughout the organization.

So what can employers do about it? How can they offer equal opportunities? In addition to expanding leadership coaching and development, there are a few steps organizations can take to improve development at all levels:

Reward managers for their support.

To take advantage of development opportunities, employees need the support of their leaders. Although it sounds simple, most managers aren’t encouraged to support the development of their employees, a recent study of 665 global organizations conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found. Among those surveyed, 63 percent said their organizations have no formal reward mechanisms for managers to develop and promote talent.

Include talent development in leadership evaluations to make sure all employees are encouraged to participate in development opportunities. Mentoring programs can also help to unite leaders and employees in development efforts.

This starts from the top down — the c-suite should develop the talent they manage, senior managers should promote middle managers, and so on. That way, everyone is always learning and reaching for the next level.

Make the path clear.

Just because development opportunities are available doesn’t mean employees know how to use them. Clearly explain coaching and development to all employees and explain what career paths look like at the company. What does an employee need to do to attain a leadership position? What do they need to reach the next level thereafter?

Let employees know exactly what they need to do to reach their career goals and then provide the resources they need to get there. When everything is laid out, all employees have an equal chance to participate in development to move up the ladder and into leadership.

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