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3 Ways HR Policies May Derail Leader Advancement

During the process of designing executive educational programs for our leadership development platform at HYGHERLEARNING.COM, we decided to conduct follow-up interviews with fifteen alumni executives. Some of these leaders were indeed alumni of LEAD360'S WYN Academy, while some were from various companies. All leaders served in the middle management area and above. We were curious to understand if what we were seeing across industries was unique to our experience or truly a trend. After our discussions, our team identified the following three highly detrimental human resource (HR) approaches to developing leaders.

Investing In Those Who Need It The Least:

One prevailing mindset that our research revealed is the allocation of budgets for leadership development, where top-level executives receive significantly more resources than their emerging or middle-level counterparts. In some organizations, there are even specific dollar figures designated for each leadership level. On the surface, this policy might appear rational, as it aims to provide top executives with the tools and opportunities necessary for their roles. However, a deeper examination of where corporate professionals tend to learn the most within their career cycle raises questions about the effectiveness of this approach.

Our researchers firmly believe that increasing budgets and opportunities for emerging leaders and middle managers to develop general manager-level competencies is not only prudent but essential for the organization's long-term success. By investing in these individuals earlier in their careers, companies can enhance retention rates, boost productivity, and improve their overall financial performance. This shift in the allocation of resources challenges the conventional corporate mindset but has the potential to yield substantial benefits.

Neglecting Non-High Potential Leaders:

One additional HR policy that can hinder upward mobility for leaders is the practice of reserving executive education opportunities exclusively for high-potential leaders. While it's essential to nurture and develop high-potential individuals, neglecting the growth and development of leaders who may not fit the high-potential category can be detrimental.

A few of the leaders with whom we spoke admitted that the designation of "high potential" results from a sophisticated process with a high degree of political bias. Therefore, you may miss a great opportunity to develop "high-performing" leaders who haven't convinced the talent management team that they have the elusive magic to ascend two levels. By limiting access to executive education programs based solely on high-potential status, organizations miss the opportunity to cultivate a broader pool of leadership talent. As a result, some companies are wasting an opportunity to level up departments at a much greater cost than replacing them.

LEAD360 believes that it is crucial to offer executive education opportunities to leaders at various levels, regardless of their perceived potential. Every leader, regardless of their current designation, can benefit from continuous learning and skill development. By providing executive education access to a more diverse group of leaders, organizations can tap into a wider range of talents and perspectives, fostering a more inclusive and innovative workplace.

Restricting External Learning Programs:

Another counterproductive HR policy is the reluctance to allow leaders to participate in external learning programs due to the fear that they might leave the organization upon gaining new knowledge and skills. While retaining talent is a valid concern, this fear-based approach can hinder leadership growth and development. However, common wisdom tells us that if a person goes to a conference or a multi-company course and leaves your company afterward, they made the departure decision far before the event.

Leaders we interviewed implied that organizations should embrace a more open-minded stance toward external learning opportunities. Encouraging leaders to engage with external programs not only enhances their skill sets but also enriches the organization with fresh insights and perspectives. Restricting access to external learning experiences limits the organization's ability to adapt to a rapidly evolving business landscape. Instead, HR policies should focus on creating a compelling work environment that fosters loyalty and commitment, thereby reducing the likelihood of leaders seeking opportunities elsewhere.

Our observations conclude that the path to accelerating the success of diverse leaders requires a reevaluation of HR policies that may inadvertently hinder upward mobility. By reconsidering budget allocations, extending executive education opportunities, and embracing external learning programs, organizations can create a more inclusive, dynamic, and resilient leadership pipeline, ultimately benefiting both the individuals and the company as a whole.

Written By: Dr. Eric W. Walton, CEO, LEAD360

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