Developing Talent from Within

Jan 24, 2019

"A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way."

John C. Maxwell

An employee coming in at the bottom and climbing the corporate ladder to the executive team is always a nice story. It is encouraging and inspiring for all the employees in the organisation. But, it is much more than just an inspirational story to be shared with the new recruits or the media. Developing talent from within the organisation also makes good financial sense, as well as encourages employees to do their best.

Leaders with a good succession plan have an easier time when it comes to filling key positions in their firm as employee move up through the different management levels or depart from the organisation. It may sound like a simple thing to do, but in reality, it does require some effort.

The finance department and the human resource professionals are often considered diametrically opposed when it comes to HR matters. The general perception is that the HR department tends to focus on the personnel and the qualitative benefits, while figures are prioritized by the finance department. However, with talent management, especially when it comes to developing talent from within, finance and HR canwork towards the same goal: making the organisation thrive.All of this can translate to success for an organisation.

Identifying the next generation of leaders and developing them is a hot topic these days. Most organisations are facing a leadership shortfall, if not crisis. Many organisations are in the middle of it already. Most are afraid that they don’t think they have or will have a suitable replacement for the current leadership position.

It is the duty of the leaders to develop talent in their organisations. While many leaders acknowledge its importance, not many of them are dedicated when it comes to training and coaching at a scale that can help develop their people towards leadership positions. A research was conducted by PDI Ninth House on the ability of senior-level leaders to develop leadership traits in their employees. It was found in the study that the ability of leaders to develop others decrease as they move up the organisation. The leaders do readily recognise the importance of developing their employees at every level, but they do little practically. The research sheds light on the obvious gap in what everyone agrees to as one of the most important capacities of the leaders, which is to build talent among their people.

Causes of Disconnect

There are many reasons for this disconnect, as highlighted by the PDI Ninth House research. All of them are caused by a set of interrelated issues. These issues include but are not limited to the following:


Time is scarce. Most of it is consumed by important and urgent tasks. The leaders who are not able to prioritise, end up using most of it handling daily crises. This interferes with activities that require long-term time and effort. Lack of time is one of the major hurdles that prevent current leaders from mentoring and coaching employees.

Focusing on Visible Skills

As people rise to senior leadership positions, they tend to focus more on developing strong business acumen, strategic thinking and more effective P&L management. They are more focused on the noticeable skills that attract attention. What gets lost amidst all this is the important task of building talent. Since it is a less obvious skill, many leaders tend to ignore it. What they don’t realise it is that building talent has a long-term payoff which will help their organisation reach bigger heights.

Lack of Development Culture

Another interesting finding of the research was that the culture of prioritising development tends to slip even in lower-level leaders when they reach senior ranks, that initially had made talent development a priority. One-on-one coaching is considered more fulfilling and most of the time, senior executives set time aside for it. But it is organisational level coaching that is missing. Senior executives need to distinguish between organisational and individual coaching.

All of this leads to a lack of development of talent from within the organisation. Diligent leaders make sure to avoid these traps.

As organisation leaders, it is their responsibility to coach, mentor and train their employees. It is important to develop and nurture their own talent for maximum impact. Not sure how this may be done?

Here are some tools for leaders to help them set the path straight for the identification and development of talent from within:

How to Identify and Develop Talent from Within?

In-House Training

Organisations that invest in in-house trainings report significant returns on investment through these programs. These programs include training and empowering senior workers, harnessing institutional knowledge among the employees and helping employees bond with their peers to increase teamwork and rely less on manuals, managers or Human Resources.

Cross-training is another tactic that is helpful in training employees to become leaders. Employees are rotated in departments which can benefit from their talents and which can give them new skills. This broadens their knowledge and helps them experience different work environments and tasks. It also promotes understanding and cooperation. All of this helps when the current leaders are looking for new leaders from within the organisation as they have the necessary skills and experience to fill in their space.


The importance of mentoring programs in organisations can never be underestimated. As much as 71% of Fortune 500 companies have some form of mentoring programs in their organisation. As a leader, when you assign a mentor to an employee, it is a great way to indicate that you are not only interested in the long-term career success of the worker but are also trying to develop leaders within your company.

Some organisations assign a mentor to a junior employee from within the organisation. This is usually someone from senior management who helps, trains and mentors junior employees. On the other hand, some organisations seek help through third-party companies that offer mentor programs. As the leader of your organisation, it is important to decide as early as possible which option you want to choose and start working on it.


If mentoring is needed to achieve long-term goals, coaching programs in the organisation are dedicated to creating and reaching short-term goals. In a typical organisation, it is the immediate manager of the employee who coaches, in addition to a professional coach who helps in identifying the skills that need to be acquired by the employee.

These skills are job and industry specific and may include interpersonal communication, project management and public speaking. All of these things help employees on their path to become leaders.

Certificate and University Programs

Depending on their position and the industry, investing in formal coursework for your employees can be an investment in your company, as well as in your employees. This becomes more important if it results in a title that can fetch higher perceived value or higher payouts from clients. Before you adopt this practice, you need to create formal guidelines about how your company will pay for this benefit and what is the eligibility criteria.

Seminars and Conferences

Attending seminars and conferences is a great way to help your employees not only learn from the best in the industry, but also gain access to a network of the best people in the industry: peers, thought leaders, case studies and vendors. All of this helps improve your bottom line and provide your organisation and employees industry exposure.

What Can Leaders Do?

The above-mentioned tools can help nurture talent from within the organisation. But there are certain things that need to be done by the leaders to ensure that an environment of development and growth is maintained. Here are some important things that leaders can do:

Act as Role Models

It is important to be transparent and enthusiastic about your own needs to ensure a learning environment. Lead by example and share how you are able to do it. This will encourage your subordinates to learn and develop especially if it becomes part of the company environment and culture. There is no harm in embracing vulnerability. Your subordinates will see you as more influential when you focus on learning.

Emphasise the Importance of Learning

Leaders are expected to go beyond the baseline conversation about achieving goals. It is important to talk to your employees about what they want to accomplish. Ask them about their goals and about what they think their weaknesses are.

Completing an assignment should be a celebration of both the achievement and the learning process that made it happen. This should be the case especially when an outcome did not come about smoothly. This attitude helps employees know that their efforts are appreciated which encourages them to do better.

Reinforce Shared Values

As a leader, it is your responsibility to link everyday responsibilities and tasks to the value they bring to the organisation. When employees are able to make this link, they are able to understand the importance of their work. This should be common practice for organisation leaders. It is important for the employees to know and understand why what they do is important and what value their work adds to the bottom line of the organisation.

Support Development through Sustainable Processes

Managers and leaders should be expected to coach, mentor and develop their employees. All employee should at least be aware of the areas that they need to improve in. Motivated and ambitious employees, should be provided with opportunities to develop their career and which can help them climb the corporate ladder through a series of steps. Once they know what they have to do to get to where they want to be, they will be able to work towards their goals, which will ultimately benefit the organisation.

Let Them Learn and Grow

If you want your employees to think out of the box, and work on their career trajectory by seeking out challenges, you need to create an environment where they don’t feel that their mistakes will jeopardise their job or set them back. In other words, you should see problems as opportunities.

Identifying Executives with High Potential

Here are some things that leaders can use to identify employees who have the potential to make it to the top of the organisation.

Track Record

Track record and the ability to execute are very important for a leader. Consider the following:

  • The results they have achieved
  • The time it took them to achieve those results
  • The quality of the results

Broad View of Organisational Problems

  • Do they consider a wide and multiple dimension of the problem?
  • Do they consider the technical, financial, political and social aspects before making decisions?
  • Do they care for a broad range of viewpoints when making decisions?

Relationship Building Skills

  • Are they empathetic towards people?
  • Do they care for others around them?
  • Are they able to build relationships and achieve results simultaneously?

Change Management

  • Were they able to manage a large-scale organisational change well?
  • Are they alright with personal change when placed in unfamiliar roles and are they successful while doing it?

Communication Skills

  • What do others think of them?
  • Are they able to build a positive relationship with others?
  • How do they interact with others?

Passion for Learning

  • Are they highly motivated to learn?
  • Do they have a passion for learning?

All of these things are signs that tell which employees can make it to the leadership level.

Want to know more?

Jefferson Maguire is an executive headhunting firm in the UK. We can help you in getting the best talent for executive-level positions in your company. Our expert team of executive search consultants make use of proven techniques to connect you with the top talent in the UK. Contact us today to know more about our services.


Loading Conversation