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Consider Your Approach to Leadership Development

Updated: Jan 10, 2023

A 167-year-old company with 43K employees hired 6K people in 2015. Today, 50% of their workforce possesses less than 5 years of experience. That means lots of retirement parties and orientation classes. It also means decades and in some cases, generations of knowledge will soon depart.

Capturing that know-how and archiving the institutional memory is critical. So too is helping new hires embrace a culture with leaders and co-workers more than twice their age. The beauty of this client is their "head above the sand" approach to addressing this reality.

They recognize that it's easy for tenured managers to simply tell folks how work get's done. In fact, they once characterized their culture as one of command and control. You do what's told, ask few if any questions and figure it out yourself. For a time that worked, yet the organization recognized it must change. It's very simple; many leaders are retiring and new generations must be developed. And they didn't just realize this yesterday.

Their approach for the last 20 years is to develop their people and provide leadership training to ALL levels of the organization. That means Individual Contributors, Front Line Supervisors, Managers, Directors and C-Level Execs participate and learn together. Components of the training include tactile team-building activities, peer & 1:1 coaching, Emotional Intelligence & Leadership assessments, 360 feedback, and more. Being a matrix organization, they are vigilant about teaching and modeling communication that encourages questions, challenges the status quo and instills commitment and ownership of problem-solving and decision-making.

Are they unique in this approach? You bet! But they're not alone in valuing education and training. In June of 2014, Starbucks announced it will pay for eligible Partners (Starbucks, Teavana, La Boulange, Evolution Fresh, and Seattle's Best Coffee employees) to finish a bachelor's degree with full tuition reimbursement for juniors and seniors through a unique collaboration with Arizona State University. "Supporting our partners ambitions is the very best investment Starbucks can make," said President and CEO Howard Schultz. The alliance between Starbucks and ASU was inspired by participation in the Markle Economic Future Initiative, co-chaired by Schultz and Markle President Zo Baird. The initiative is committed to expanding opportunities that help Americans succeed in the global digital economy and reignite faith that the American Dream is achievable. And guess what, Partners will have no commitment to remain at the company past graduation. In fact, they only need to work 20 hours a week to be eligible. (

So why do firms make a commitment to develop and invest in their employees? Some will say it's the right thing to do, others because it provides a competitive advantage, and others because it helps them attract smart people. For clients like the 167-year-old company, they know it statistically impacts key metrics; safety, productivity, customer satisfaction, cost containment, employee commitment, and revenue growth.

Question: Before you go... consider your approach to investing in leadership development. Is it something you do only in good times or an enduring commitment to a strategy that delivers business results?


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