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Talent Agents

In my last column we revealed that the top ten companies for developing executive talent, voted by a jury of their peers, are: GE, Johnson & Johnson, Dell, IBM, Weyerhaeuser, Bank of America, PepsiCo, UBS, Procter & Gamble, and Cisco. I also mentioned that the process for identifying companies included self-ratings based on our list of 12 executive/leadership development “Best Practices.” Well here’s your chance to do the same.

In my last column we revealed that the top ten companies for developing executive talent, voted by a jury of their peers, are: GE, Johnson & Johnson, Dell, IBM, Weyerhaeuser, Bank of America, PepsiCo, UBS, Procter & Gamble, and Cisco. I also mentioned that the process for identifying companies included self-ratings based on our list of 12 executive/leadership development “Best Practices.” Well here’s your chance to do the same.

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Below is the list. Rate your organization. Then look below to see how the average of 100 companies rated themselves in our 2004 Executive Development Trends Survey and see how you compare. More importantly, think about the questions at the very end of this column and what you might want to do about your ratings.

Best Practices in which Your Organization Excels

The following is a list of common “best practices” used by companies to develop executives and leaders. List those in which your organization excels:

  1. Linked to Strategy: Our executive development efforts are directly linked to our organization’s strategy. It’s clear how these efforts help address our marketplace challenges and/or achieve our strategic objectives.
  2. Top Management Driven: Our top executives champion our executive development efforts. We have a senior, line executive advisory board. Our top executives attend the programs as participants and also teach when appropriate.
  3. Strategy & System: We have a strategy and long-term plan for executive development. Our programs and practices are part of a continuous system and process rather than stand-alone, ad hoc events.
  4. Thorough Front-End Analysis: No significant executive development effort is begun without a thorough front-end or needs analysis.
  5. Custom Designed: We custom-design our programs so they address our unique, company-specific challenges and opportunities, and help create and/or drive our vision, values and strategies.
  6. Leadership Profile, Feedback and Individual Development Plans: We use a custom-designed [linked to our vision, values, and strategies], multi-rater leadership instrument/inventory to provide confidential development feedback to our executives. Our executives have individual development plans based on that feedback.
  7. Top-Down Implementation: Whenever our executive and leadership development efforts are aimed at organizational change, our top management attends the programs first as participants. Then the programs are cascaded down throughout the organization.
  8. Action-Oriented Learning: Our executive learning experiences are action oriented. Whenever feasible, we use some form of “action learning” where participants apply what they are learning to real, current business problems and opportunities.
  9. Succession Management: We have an effective succession management system that ensures we have the right executive, in the right job, at the right time. We seldom are forced to hire from outside the organization to fill a key executive job opening as a result of not having a qualified internal candidate prepared.
  10. Integrated Talent Management System: We have a well integrated talent management system (succession management, external and internal executive education, on-the-job development, coaching/mentoring, etc.) rather than independent stand-alone processes.
  11. Measurement: We set clear, measurable objectives when we create new executive development strategies, systems, processes, and programs. Then we measure the business impact using metrics that matter to senior management, and communicate the results effectively.
  12. High Potential Identification and Development: Our organization has an effective process for identifying “high potential” talent and accelerating their development.

Here now is how the 100 companies came out on their self ratings:

In other words, nearly 70% said they excel at creating custom-designed programs that address their unique, company-specific challenges and opportunities, and help create and/or drive their vision, values, and strategies — that’s the best of the best practices. Good news! On the other hand, the “worst practice” relates to metrics for executive/leadership development. Only 20% say they excel.

So now what? The important thing isn’t what these 100 organizations had to say about their practices, or even who the top ten companies are, but rather what you think about your own organization. Answering these questions might help:

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  • What do you and your top management believe are your critical practices? They aren’t universal; they differ somewhat from one organization to the next. What are the ones that make the most difference in the quality and impact of the executive and leadership development efforts in your organization?
  • How did you rate yourselves on those practices?
  • On the ones that are critical, and that you gave yourself low ratings, what can you do about it? What would it take to bring those practices up to “best-in-class”?
  • Create a plan to bring your “critical few” practices up to the level that will make your overall effort so good that your executive talent is a competitive advantage.
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