In today’s business world, there exists a tightened talent pool of younger employees who, unlike their predecessors, are less tethered to the idea of long-term employment at one company. Combine this scenario with a wave of baby boomers exiting the workforce leaving open positions devoid of institutional knowledge and experience, and it’s no wonder companies big and small are putting a premium on discovering talent and preparing employees for leadership positions.
Baton Rouge-based Success Labs has built a steady business creating custom leadership development, talent management and succession plans for a variety of regional and national businesses. Owner and President Devin Lemoine elaborated on the current need. “This is an important time for companies to get their arms around developing people,” she said. “The trend is finding people who want to get on a leadership track earlier. On the flipside of that, employees won’t stay if a company gives the impression that it doesn’t want to invest. You’ve got to keep people happy. Today’s employees think, ‘If this isn’t working for me, I’m not going to lock down and bear it for three or four years, much less the next 20 years.’”
Lemoine also mentioned that the market for talent is quite dynamic. Organizations and businesses need to communicate the reasons why someone would want to work there. Stressing that the culture includes career development and that there is an opportunity to learn and grow at any level serves as a selling point and allows the company to bring people aboard who are already predicated to leadership.
Lemoine encourages companies to look for potential employees who have good people skills, exhibit critical thinking ability and are change-hardy. “Employers should hire team members who demonstrate the potential to be successful beyond their current status,” she explained. “Companies can’t hire people and not develop them. You have to bring them on board, spin them up with knowledge and give them projects and experiences to see how they do so they can add value quicker.”
Manufacturing companies and those that support the industry had a few years of down time where less resources were invested in people and infrastructure. However, as the economy has taken an upturn, companies like Structural Preservation Systems are now staffing up, but are often faced with a sizeable gap to get people ready for leadership positions. After looking at its five-year growth plan, Structural realized it needed to have strategies in place on a local level to move more people into leadership positions. The company decided to fill these positions in house with emerging leaders first with the opportunity to draw from outside the company as well.
“We wanted to catch our emerging leadership sooner and complement their technical abilities with the soft skills to learn how to build trust and inspire the team,” said Jodi Perrodin, Director of Administration. “Imparting these skills early means we don’t have to play catch up after they have already moved into the leadership position.” Over the next six months, the company put together a development notebook, which offers some technical training, but consists of about 90% soft skills. Currently, Structural is testing the plan with select team members, rolling it out through introductory workshops and putting these new skill sets into practice. The second phase will consist of evaluation and feedback.
North Oaks Health System CEO Michele Sutton says she is starting to see employees with 30-plus years of tenure begin to retire, which is just one of the reasons this Hammond-based health care entity began focusing on a very strong succession plan and identifying upcoming talent.
North Oaks uses a variety of resources to invest in its next wave of leaders, such as an Emerging Leadership Program so that self-identifying leaders can begin their upward track. Through its Leadership Development Academy, future leaders go through didactic classes taught by in-house subject matter experts. North Oaks also takes advantage of leadership training from industry organizations like the Louisiana Hospital Association (LHA). “We select a handful of our middle managers who excel and send them on to LHA’s classes like their Leadership Institute,” said Sutton. “LHA has a tremendous education program especially where they allow for certification, which is another benefit for our system and our team members.”
North Oaks also extended its tuition reimbursement program to go beyond its traditional support of department directors and officers. Now, supervisors and managers can also get assistance pursuing higher education whether it’s a master’s degree or a first-time degree. “Sometimes, team members in middle management positions do not have the means for additional education,” said Sutton. “Our philosophy is that we like to support and invest in people who share the same passion and culture of improving lives and we’re opening this opportunity up to more of our employees.” Overall, the focus on talent and leadership is paying off as North Oaks has a new crop of leaders rising through the ranks, has been selected by New Orleans City Business as one of the best places to work for the eighth year in a row and boasts an employee retention rate up to 3.5 years longer than the state average.
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