Managing succession plans and leadership pipelines can be a complex issue - it often requires defining hard-to-define responsibilities for your leadership, and then holding your breath and hoping you don’t need to pay for a costly candidate search if and when that leader moves on.

These complexities can be far easier to handle for companies who have a deep bench. To build this deep bench, employers must consider why talented employees tend to leave certain companies early on, and what changes they can make to increase their retention.

Leadership pipelines in companies are essential for company growth

Job training isn’t enough, without career support, talented employees look for a new job

While most of us want to be our best at the task at hand when on the job, that doesn’t dismiss the reality that we also have concern about the future of our career. For those of us without the luxury of a guaranteed contract - which is just about everyone - relationships with our employers is often a delicate balance between wanting to deliver top performance right now but not knowing if they care about our future. With this uncertainty, it’s no wonder that over 50% of high-potential employees only stay at their current companies between 1 to 3 years, according to the Human Capital Institute.

Employers may shrug at the reality of this arrangement, but they should realize that it doesn’t have to be this way, and that employees who feel supported in their career growth tend to stick around longer.

In fact, an American Psychological Association survey released this month reported that those individuals who do not feel they have career development support are “more likely to distrust their employer and plan on leaving within the next year”. It isn’t just a matter of trying to make employees more satisfied. Without ongoing career support, the talented but unhappy individuals will just move on to the next opportunity at the first chance they get.

This setup doesn’t bode well for companies that are struggling to build robust leadership pipelines. While the behemoth Fortune 500 employers have both the HR infrastructure and deep benches to control pipelines, small to midsize employers often struggle in this area.

Here are a few things to consider in the context of the leadership pipeline:

Managers, especially newer ones, may not have the training yet to support career development

To advise middle to senior level leadership to simply “provide more support” to their employees is both comically unclear and may have little to do with the skill set that made them a leader in the first place. Good new management talent is often there due to some mixture of being good at the work, communicative with peers, and friendly to customers. This may not translate quickly into being top notch at supporting a varied and needy group of direct reports. This gap may be closed through a robust human resources system, but when that is not available, external consulting or leadership coaching may be able to fill the need.

Millennial’s training needs are ever changing: Adaptability is king

Supporting millennials is not as simple as plunking them down in front of a training video and pressing play. The answer to stopping your talent leak early may not be a huge upfront investment in a static employee development program that would take years to implement and years to change, but instead looking for options that consider the constantly evolving needs of your new staff and providing training and development that can adapt along with them.

This added dimension of support may have a cost - but should be compared against hiring, job training, and other talent management expenses

If you are running a mid-sized business with around 100 employees and the idea of an ambiguous added cost of “supervisor support” causes anxiety, try to look at it through the lens of other bigger headaches that are costing you far more: think the constant grind of finding solid entry-level and leadership talent. Having a better understanding of these costs - and how you match up to your competitors who are bending over backwards to retain their top talent - may help you rethink “managerial support” as a superior and more cost-effective way of running the company.

A diverse group of employees

The current prevalence of low employee retention in certain industries shouldn’t be viewed as a mystery - the solution may need a deft managerial effort - but it’s there. If you are looking to solve the problem of an inadequate leadership pipeline, remember that employees with broad career development support are more likely to stay, and with the right employee training and development to provide this specialized support, you may be able to reduce the costly tide of top talent leaving for greener pastures.


Interested in further discussion on adapting to employee needs and stopping leaks in your leadership pipeline? Connect with Pat to see how Ace-Up can help.

Pat Shreckengast’s mission is simple. He wants people to experience more satisfaction at work so they can better go about enjoying life. This is his responsibility at Ace-Up, the go-to marketplace for quality coaching and individualized talent development.

Schedule a call with Pat