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Invest in your people – developing stars within your organisation

“Grow your stars, don’t buy them” – this statement has recently caught our attention, sent out by HR Future’s Alan Hosking referring to a video-interview with Harvard Business School Professor Boris Groysberg.

The interview with Groysberg resonated with us for different reasons. Firstly, it relates to one of the underlying tenets of our work: the belief that solutions for given challenges lie within a person, organisation or system. So why not think about it in this context – that the drive, skill, engagement and enthusiasm to bring an organisation forward lies within the people already in the organisation rather than high-profile executives on the outside?

It also confirmed the relevance of long-term development of management and leadership skills, which is the heart of what we do. And it corresponded well with programmes we offer our clients: systematic training of ‘stars’, in ways that are tailor-made to the client context and needs.

Our development programmes for future leaders usually focus on management skills such as communication, presentation, conflict management, project management, as well as modules on leadership. Depending on the client context, additional topics and modules are added. The programme equips future leaders with the required qualification even before or just after being appointed as executives. While on the programme, participants work on long-term projects with high relevance for the company, which enables them to directly apply the skills learned. Programmes end with a final presentation to the Board, extensive feedback by top management, and a celebration of achieved successes and development.

“What is different about this, in comparison to other programmes”, you might ask. What characterises CONTRACT programmes for future leaders? When developing leaders, we do not only prepare them for their functional role, but look at the whole person. Integrity and integration are crucial here: being able to live yourself authentically in all roles, and creating a coherent ‘whole’ – integrating the roles in your life in a meaningful way. We enable future leaders to get to their core, to be able to identify and tap into their unique strengths and thus live their unique leadership personality. We do this by using a fresh approach to training, by creating an informal, warm and focused workshop atmosphere in which people feel comfortable to question, open up, try out, and learn.

“I don’t want to spend money on developing stars, only to have them leave us afterwards”, you might say. We say: rather see this the other way around! If you train your potential stars, other potential stars will come to you! HR Development is always a core factor for employer branding, and the extent to which you develop stars equals the extent to your company becoming attractive to future employees. And: If you do not do anything for your potential stars, OTHERS WILL DO IT!

“In the current climate within South Africa, where many people are pursuing their self-interest and many are solely interested in gaining power, I am not sure if it is possible to keep stars”, you might say. We do have clients who are concerned about ‘stars’ leaving – however, in our experience, this happens less often than feared. When growing and developing your employees, you do not only develop people. Trusted relationships, constructive communication and functioning processes are created – all conditions that are pleasant to work within. To quote Groysberg, “stars are stars because of the people around them, because of the support they have – and stars enjoy working with other stars”. Many of our past participants, who have gone through intensive leadership training together and are now placed at senior levels of their organisation (often in different countries), are still tapping into their relationship with their peers from way back – “when we were part of the future leaders’ programme”. We’d like to invite you to take on developing your employees with trust and courage. Try out and see what happens if you invest in your people, and see what is possible through people development!

And regarding the few stars who have developed within an organisation and might consider leaving – they usually consider this for other reasons than ‘having completed their development’ and not being able to ‘get out anything more’. There is a saying “employees don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”. To counteract this, developing talent and future leaders can be complemented with other development initiatives: having already existing and current leaders reflect on their practice and improve themselves. And creating an atmosphere and company culture that is just too stimulating, pleasant, vibrant and addictive to leave behind.

But that’s another story for another day!