When developing tomorrow’s leaders for your organization, is it best to source candidates internally or externally? Bringing in people from the outside can infuse a company with fresh, new ideas and a new perspective on how to get things done. But some studies suggest that developing leaders internally might be the better approach. Either way, a company should continuously build its talent bench strength.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share three steps companies can take to build bench strength via succession planning.

1. Identify the right candidates. The first step is to assess the skills needed to advance the company’s progress toward its vision, outline the core competencies required and identify potential candidates. Understanding the difference between high-potential employees and high performers is important. Future leaders—your high potentials—actively show an interest in taking on more responsibilities, leading people, and contributing and advancing new ideas. High performers stand out because of how well they do their job, which doesn’t always transfer in positions of leadership. After all, technical skills and subject matter expertise are different from the skills potential leaders have an interest in when it comes to getting the most out of the people and opportunities available within an organization.

2. Develop leadership skills on a continuous basis. Once the right candidates are identified, managers should begin developing employees’ leadership skills and discussing career objectives as well as outlining the experience, skills and training employees will need to advance. The best approach to ensure high-potential employees are progressing along their development plan is for managers to have frequent one-on-one meetings with employees to talk about leadership development, and with supervisors to outline next steps, training and offer stretch assignments that will help the employee meet his or her goals.

3. Retain leaders with real-world application of new skills. It’s not enough to just talk to employees about leadership skills and provide training; they’ll also need to practice their new skills on the job before they’ll be ready to move into more responsible roles. Stretch assignments that allow high-potential employees to direct projects or supervise teams are a great way to build employees’ confidence as they apply what they’ve learned to real-world situations. Stretch assignments also instill a greater sense of ownership, which can keep employees engaged and onboard for the long term.

Having a strong leadership pipeline has always been important, but agility and a deep bench are even more crucial in a rapidly evolving business climate. While it might not always be possible to fill open leadership roles internally, research shows that’s the best way to put someone in place who can hit the ground running. By following these three steps, companies can groom next-generation leaders who can take on new opportunities and ensure businesses continuity.

Source: Joanne Wells is the manager of Learning Centre of Excellence at Halogen Software.