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How to identify emerging leaders in non-leadership roles

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Chris Morrison
Written on the 26 October 2022

While succession planning is an embedded process in most large organisations, rarely is this extended beyond existing leaders. Research suggests emerging talent is generally the most at risk of leaving if not engaged in the talent planning process.

Recent data from Work Institute’s Retention Report estimates that it costs as much as 33% of a worker’s annual salary to replace them. When you consider you may lose your next executive, or CEO then the cost becomes unquantifiable.

So with this in mind, how can we better identify, engage and develop emerging leaders?


How to identify emerging leaders

Succession planning processes tend to focus on CEO or executive succession, and as a result a general focus on the direct reports to these roles. What about talent lower down in the organisational chart? Not considering this cohort, our future leaders, is a missed opportunity for foundational leadership development and can result in poor engagement, unconsidered development processes and losing people the organisation could retain. Extending talent planning to other levels can send a strong message to the organisation of the value they place on their people, and can give emerging leaders confidence they will be considered and developed.


Engaging emerging leaders in talent planning

Communication and engagement are critical in any succession planning process and ensuring there is alignment of messaging is critical and often overlooked. Considering what message you want to send to the organisation, and how we engage the talent discussed in the process is important to consider. Leaders must own the messaging, leverage the opportunity for increased engagement and avoid rumours or non-intentional messaging.


Retaining key talent

Once identified and engaged, what can organisations do to identify flight-risks and retain those emerging leaders? Research suggests employees are more likely to leave the organisation during the onboarding period if their expectations are misaligned to the reality they experience in those first six months. Therefore, engagement during the onboarding period is critical. Another key juncture is that 2-3 year period when high potential talent generally experience a plateauing of the learning curve and may begin to consider what is next in their career journey. Often this isn’t communicated, and leaders can be oblivious to this. So how do we ensure the first we hear of this, isn’t through a letter of resignation?


Future proofing your organisation by securing emerging leaders

Securing, engaging and developing the next layer down of our future leaders is critical to organisational sustainability and longevity. It’s important to consider what gaps exist in this cohort, and what development is required to equip these emerging leaders with the skills required for their future roles. Harvard Business Review reports that up to 70% of today’s high performers lack critical attributes essential to their success in future roles. Understanding this, and tailoring development plans and training to address this is critical to engagement and is a commitment to this cohort that the organisation values you and are invested in your future success.

Creating a wholistic and robust talent planning process is critical to future proofing your organisation and has a significant impact on culture and engagement. Identifying, engaging and developing our future leaders should be a continuous process for organisations and can have significant impacts on engagement and retention.

Picture of Chris Morrison

Chris Morrison

Chris Morrison is the founder and Director of Meritos, an executive search and recruitment business working with purpose-driven organisations. If you're interested in connecting with Chris, you can find him on LinkedIn here. You can also reach him on 02 8000 7121 or via email at [email protected]
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Questions to ask to help you understand a candidate:

1. Describe your ideal working environment.

2. What do you enjoy about your current workplace?

3. How does a manager get the best out of you?

4. Describe the best team that you’ve ever worked in.

The reasons why I ask these questions:

1. Reason

2. Reason

3. Reason

4. Reason

Insights by Chris Morrison