4 Ways Your Company Can Develop More Leaders

When hiring leaders, soft skills and fit are the most important characteristics to seek. But you don’t always have to recruit what you need from the outside. As Jean Martin noted in a Harvard Business Review article, outside hires take twice as long to ramp up as internal candidates. And of the 40 percent of leaders that are hired from outside each year, nearly half fail within the first 18 months.

Hiring from within your company allows leadership candidates to apply intimate knowledge of the company when charting the course forward. These candidates have an easier time garnering buy-in from employees and customers alike, allowing them to get to work on growth and change much faster.

However, it’s rarely as simple as deciding to promote from within; increasing the number of leadership candidates you can hire from within is a long-term goal that must be worked on over time. It’s up to current leadership to mentor tomorrow’s leaders. Here are four ways that talent acquisition and human resources teams can create an environment that increases internal leadership hiring opportunities from within:

1. Look to Internal Candidates First

The first step in giving internal candidates a chance for leadership roles is to give internal leaders the opportunity to apply. After you write the job description but before you start interviewing external candidates, work with your managers to move talent around before hiring from outside. Not only will you save money on recruiting costs, but according to a 2012 University of Pennsylvania Wharton School study, you’ll also be able to pay up to 18 percent less for an internal promotion instead of an external hire.

Start by announcing the opportunity to your company and inviting candidates to apply. Take it a step further by asking your management team to submit 2-3 specific recommendations for employees who could perform well in the leadership role.

2. Tack On Leadership Questions To Non-Leadership Candidate Interviews

In our most recent leadership post, we shared three excellent questions talent acquisition teams can use to interview new leadership candidates. However, these questions aren’t reserved for leadership hires. They can also be used to screen lower-level candidates for leadership potential.

The next time you take an interview for a mid- or low-level job opening, don’t stop at “You’re Hired!” When you’re sure that a candidate is a good cultural fit, tack on customized, leadership-oriented questions in the final round of candidate interviews to assess whether or not each hire has the potential for leadership later on. This will allow you to do the pre-screening work long before you need to worry about filling a specific leadership position.

3. Provide Managers With the Tools to Nurture Leadership

Best practices in career and human resources management indicate that developing talent is a core function of leadership. To that end, your organization must enable its current leadership to nurture the leadership of the future with mentorship programs, professional development and strategic leadership opportunities.

A nurturing environment might look different according to your company’s resources and priorities. For some, this might mean on-the-job networking time for mentors and mentees to meet and discuss career and leadership topics. For others, this might mean organizing an elective professional development course or book club. Carefully consider the organizational context of your company and create a leadership development program that will help you nurture leaders.

4. Implement Leadership-Specific Retention Strategies

According to Simply Hired data, job descriptions for leaders identify leaders as goal-oriented strategic thinkers who are self-starting, assertive and effective at communication. Candidates who fit this job description won’t wait to act out these abilities until invited to do so; they’ll be acting them out no matter what job title they have. The best way to keep these candidates around is to provide outlets for these skills within lower-level jobs in your company.

For example, you can encourage goal-oriented, self-starting behavior by including elective goals such as Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGS) in the workplace. This will give your potential leaders enormous opportunity to display these leadership traits. It will also give your managers and human resources team the opportunity to see who responds to the challenge.

The same opportunities exist for being assertive and communicating effectively. Over the course of a quarter or year, you can take note of whether or not a candidate is improving or declining with these skills. When leadership opportunities open up and you consider each candidate’s potential you will have months of data to reflect on.

Don’t limit your leadership hires to external candidates. Open your eyes to the potential locked within your company,then take these steps to unleash it.

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