Innovative Approaches to Managing the C-Suite Talent Pipeline


My last blog discussed how CHROs described the importance of a number of specific practices for developing future C-Suite talent.  Those results showed that firms emphasize development activities, followed by retention, with identification practices taking up the rear.  While those results provide a good quantitative view of the importance of different practices, they lack any specificity.  The second part of this investigation sought more qualitative information regarding examples of what firms are doing to develop their C-suite talent pipeline.

In order to achieve this we asked one open-ended question: What is the most innovative thing your organization has done to manage high-potentials?  These answers were coded into similar categories in order to identify the areas most popular regarding innovations.  Responses often listed a number of different things, and each was coded as a separate practice.  Also, a large number of responses noted at the outset that the general practice was not necessarily innovative, but that how they were customizing it in their firm was the innovative component.

The results suggest that firms seem to be innovating in a number of areas that may not have appeared to be critical parts of their strategies for building the pipeline of future C-suite talent.  Clearly the most innovations fall in two critical areas: using special projects and using job rotations/stretch assignments.  However, the next two most popular categories involve leadership development programs and extensive assessment.  In addition, finding ways to get these individuals to interact with the board and paying special attention to compensation comprised some relatively frequent ways that firms sought to innovate.

In essence, the responses to this question suggest that firms are creating more systematic and comprehensive plans for building talent to attain C-suite roles.  While assessment may not be used to identify high potentials, once identified a number of firms invest in broad and extensive assessment processes to identify suitability and potential skill gaps.  They also create customized leadership development programs, sometimes in partnership with universities, but always involving substantial teaching by internal executives.  In addition, some note creative ways to provide unique experiences (e.g., expose them to actual CEO activities) and assignments (use of short-term international assignments that balance living in a foreign country with family concerns) to develop and retain these individuals.