4 tips for developing employees into future leaders - HR Future helps people prepare for the Future of Work and is South Africa's leading print, digital and online Human Resources magazine.

4 tips for developing employees into future leaders

HR managers are always working hard to engage workers, create a positive company culture, and increase retention rates so that businesses don’t have to spend time and money on continually finding new staff members. When it comes to this goal, one good way to go about keeping your top employees is to help develop them for future leadership positions. Doing this also assists with succession planning, building more cohesive teams, and finding ways to innovate.

Read on for the lowdown on four top tips you can follow today to develop workers into leaders who can take your organisation well into the future.

Move employees around your business

For starters, one of the best ways to help your team members become top leaders for your business is to ensure they understand it thoroughly, inside and out. You can make this happen by moving your top workers around from department to department and location to location. Rotate employees through various divisions and job titles, so that they have the chance to wrap their head around the various functions involved, and the numerous markets around the world where the organisation does business.

When people have spent time really learning the business, they get a clear idea of how things work (plus what doesn’t seem to be working) at both a big-picture level, and a day-to-day, operational level. They can also see first-hand how things differ in each of the markets where the business trades, something which all future leaders really need to understand if they want to help the venture grow.

Another great benefit of getting your employees to move around the company is that they can pick up on things that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. For example, workers who have spent time in numerous parts of the business might come up with a way to solve costly problems, or notice great new opportunities, because everything they have learned during their time “cross-pollinating.”

Invest in your team’s education

Top leaders are typically people who have a commitment to learning and development, and who are continually looking for ways to expand their skills and knowledge. As such, if you want your current workers to become the best leaders possible, it’s wise to invest time and money into their education. While you can leave learning up to them, you’ll find that they develop much more quickly if you aid them in this area, and show you’re willing to invest in them.

There are different ways to educate your workers. For example, you can help people attain an overall business qualification by arranging for them to study a Master of Business Administration online or on campus; or you might decide to get them learning about specific topics by developing a training programme or bringing in qualified people to run workshops or deliver talks. You might also consider sending employees off to relevant conferences, trade shows, and other events; or arranging employee exchanges with other companies.

Challenge workers regularly

Challenging your staff members on a regular basis is another good way to help them become good leaders. After all, those in top positions need to know how to think on their feet, deal with challenging situations and people, and work out how to perform unfamiliar tasks. The sooner employees are tested in this area, the sooner they can grow stronger. In addition, when you test people, you quickly learn where their true capabilities lie, and where they still need some assistance.

Look for ways to assign your workers tasks which will push them past their current level of skill or knowledge. It is important to ensure the assignments you give people have some kind of inherent risk involved, to really up the ante. Be on hand to assist if necessary, but try to take a back-seat approach as much as possible so that employees strive to achieve the desired outcomes, and learn some important lessons along the way.

Develop in-house mentoring programmes

Lastly, your team will grow again when they have a chance to learn from those who are more experienced or knowledgeable than them. They can discover not just how to complete specific tasks or manage a workforce, but also what kinds of personal skills are necessary to be a good leader (e.g. communication, problem-solving, negotiation, conflict resolution, and time management).

It’s useful, then, to develop in-house mentoring programmes where your junior staff members can be paired up with more experienced employees for a time. It pays to establish set guidelines for how the mentoring programme will work, as well as a review process whereby you can discover how successful the partnership has been.

Tiffany Rowe is the Marketing Administrator at Seek Visibility.

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