R SA attributes its surprisingly low turnover rate--20 percent annually--toits corporate values, which promote self-motivation, idea-sharing, and personalgrowth. Every employee is encouraged to set career goals, and leadershipdevelopment is the foundation of the company’s program to advance its mostpromising staff members. “We are a highly entrepreneurial organization thatwas founded by strong leaders,” says Rita Proulx, a manager in the company’scenter for learning and development. “We want to drive those leadership skillsdown to everyone.”
To achieve this goal, every new manager is expected to complete a rigorousleadership-training curriculum. Regardless of whether they are promoted fromwithin or newly hired, managers receive a complete evaluation to determine theirleadership strengths and gaps, she says. After six months on the job, theyparticipate in a 360-degree assessment that rates them on 14 establishedleadership competencies such as building trust, coaching, communication, anddelegating authority. Based on the results, a custom training program isestablished to meet their individual needs and potential.” The assessmentprocess gives us an opportunity, early on, to guide their development asleaders,” Proulx says.
But leadership development isn’t limited to managers. It’s also aimed atemployees just below the first tier of management jobs who show managementpotential. “We want to build their leadership skills so that when a needarises for a new manager, we have a pool of talent to choose from,” she says.
Potential managers receive management and leadership training in skills theyare most likely to need immediately on the job, such as relationship-buildingand conflict resolution. Training in other skills, such as team-building andpeer assessment, which they may not need until they’ve been managers for a fewmonths, is offered after the new position has been assigned, she says.
To ensure that the training department is targeting the right people andeffectively managing their training needs, RSA recently rolled out theLeadership Emerging and Development program. The 12-month program exposesmotivated employees to leadership opportunities through formal training, jobrotations, and mentoring. Candidates nominate themselves and are chosen by themanagement team on the basis of their experience, skills, and past performance.Proulx expects to enroll 2 percent of the staff in the program annually.
The company chose self-nominations over manager recommendations to eliminatefavoritism and to be sure that only the most proactive employees participate inthe program. “We want people with entrepreneurial spirit who are focused ontheir own growth and desire to develop their career potential,” Proulx says.
While there is no promise that a management job will be waiting when theycomplete the leadership program, it does ensure that when a job opens, studentsof LEAD are the most likely candidates. It’s also an opportunity for employeesto expand their potential for future roles, whether it’s with the company orelsewhere, she says.
When responsibility for career advancement is in the hands of employees,Proulx believes, the most innovative associates will naturally rise to the top.“We give them the infrastructure and opportunities to advance, but they are incharge of pursuing their own development. We don’t push it.”
Workforce, October 2002, p. 83 -- Subscribe Now!