Every company needs to cultivate top junior talent to ensure a steady pipeline of future leaders.
However, even some of the most iconic companies don’t think about the process of leadership succession planning until a global pandemic happens, the current CEO decides to go elsewhere, or the top tier of leadership is about to retire. According to Forbes, having a talent development and succession plan at all levels throughout an organization retains quality employees.
We know right now leaders have to work harder to encourage employee engagement and earn their loyalty.
Credit union leaders need to remember that excellent customer service, smooth processing of loans, and careful fiscal practices occur because of great teams. Great teams happen when there is strong leadership and guidance, solid career options, and professional development that help employees envision a long-term future with the credit union.
Great mentorship programs also emphasize that the mentoring process is a two-way benefit. Old-style mentorship programs made the process top-down and directional. Mentors often felt as though they were doing all of the giving and not receiving benefits in return. Current mentorship opportunities should benefit the mentors as well as the mentees. When pairing a mentor and a mentee, look for areas where both can benefit.
What can you do to make sure you are helping employees develop their talents, skills, and abilities so that they can contribute in a more meaningful way to the organization?
Incentivize Senior Leadership to Mentor Their Subordinates
There is never a shortage of junior employees looking for mentors. The difficulty in developing a strong talent development program is building a pool of engaged mentors. Mentorship, conducted properly, takes time. While some executives are happy to participate and share their knowledge, many are so busy that they don’t consider mentorship a priority.
Senior leaders need to be incentivized to matriculate more junior leaders with regularity.
One effective tactic to encourage participation is to include mentorship goals in the annual performance objectives of senior personnel. These goals can be as detailed or as simple as meeting with a mentee monthly to share a coffee and discuss high-level topics. If it is scheduled, it is likely to happen. If it is not, it won’t. Having mentorship as a priority puts pressure on senior leadership to engage with top junior talent and build a relationship that evolves over time.
The carrot version of this is to actively encourage leaders and mentees to spend time together by offering sporting or community events for mentors and their mentees, pay for a monthly shared meal, or allow junior leaders to work for more senior people outside of their normal job on projects they are interested in for a specified time period.
Create a Leadership Development Roadmap
Mentorship is a great opportunity for junior employees and is most effective when paired with a leadership development plan to further their skills and career goals. When creating professional development programs there should be a clear roadmap and objective benchmarks. Without a way to evaluate growth or productivity, a mentorship program becomes less valuable.
A good development roadmap highlights key skills junior talent should develop before reaching their next career milestone. Those skills may be functional or may involve leading teams across a variety of business lines. A good talent development program also allows for effective comparison of talented leaders to determine who is most suitable for future executive roles.
While this process seems simple, developing a robust talent development program is a difficult process that requires buy-in from across the credit union. However, when done right, a good program can help the credit union thrive by having people who are experienced across a multitude of positions and able to back each other up when needed.
Build the Leadership Bench
Credit union leaders today need to be more experienced regarding personal matters, regulatory issues, and finance. In order to effectively build the leadership bench, leaders need to look at their succession plan. A strong succession plan should be part of a strategic plan, and is critical for any credit union to execute a transition that ensures continued business growth. However, even well-known companies oftentimes do not think about having backups to critical positions until there is a crisis.
An effective succession plan includes an evaluation of the key competencies needed for future roles. It is necessary to identify top talent that could eventually fill that or other C-suite roles.
I recently worked with an organization that was doing the right activities to transition to a new leader. However, when the current CEO introduced “Bob” as the heir apparent to the board and other stakeholders, there was resistance. The board did not believe that Bob was the right choice, simply because they didn’t know Bob or Bob’s capabilities. The CEO needed to regroup and find opportunities to showcase Bob’s abilities so that the board could move forward to appoint Bob with confidence. The CEO highlighted Bob’s abilities across the multi-faceted roles of the credit union. Once Bob’s experience was better known, the board gave him their support.
When developing leaders, it is helpful to rotate the talent through leadership positions across the company to ensure they obtain the appropriate breadth of knowledge to truly understand the organization. Not all candidates start with the same skill set, making this an incredibly important aspect of creating a leadership development plan.
Winning the war for talent requires more proactive planning, more senior-level involvement, and more structured learning opportunities to help define and refine the future of successful credit unions.