Don’t let “high potential” leadership development programs design undercut your overall workforce engagement efforts.
That warning comes from AMA Enterprise, a division of American Management Association that offers advisory services and tailored learning programs to organizations, after a survey showed that corporate programs to identify and develop certain employees for future leadership positions are often seen as unfair and political by other workers.
AMA Enterprise recently polled more than 500 senior managers and executives on how their employees view leadership development programs. Senior Vice President Sandi Edwards says the company found that one-quarter of employees in the United States and Canada tend to regard talent development programs as less than equitable.
“On the contrary,” she says, “it seems just 12% consider efforts to identity and develop future leaders as impartial and even-handed.”
The results indicate that even employees who may be favorably disposed to leadership programs think they are in some way flawed, observed Edwards. “Equally striking is that 37% of respondents have little idea how development programs may be perceived by employees as a whole.”
The selectivity of leadership programs is a major source of discontent, Edwards suspects.
“It’s no surprise that organizations are inclined to limit who may apply for such programs, much less who are selected for leadership development,” she says. “Many may be called, but few are chosen. Or, it could be the case that not everyone is eligible for participation given roles and responsibilities. So some unavoidable jealousy has to be factored in.”
While some employee resentment may be understandable, Edwards urges senior managers not to be complacent.
“At the core of effective talent management as well as employee engagement is a shared sense of openness and fairness. A real attempt must be made to let everyone know the program criteria and to leave open the possibility that others might be selected at a future date. Keeping open the door of opportunity is key to holding onto good workers. If an individual doesn’t make the cut for entry to a program, point out that the chance will come up again,” she says.
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