Nurturing the emerging talent

THIS week, Business News announced the outcome of its search for outstanding achievers in the 40under40 program. As you may have observed, this program has brought to the surface an outstanding array of commercial achievers who cover a wide range of industry segments and functional disciplines.

It is worth noting that many organisations fail in their attempts to attract and retain young talent, therefore missing out on the significant benefits that flow from the full development in skills of their younger senior executives and leaders. If you have some high quality future leaders in your organisation, or you are serious about attracting such talent, then here’s a small selection of key considerations designed to ensure you gain full benefit.

Firstly, give some serious thought to the type of career path you plan to make available to your aspiring leader(s). That goes way beyond the typical interview statement … “well I’m looking for someone to take my job within five years”. Most high quality young executives and aspiring CEOs will see straight through this statement.

Be genuine and concise, and provide a clear and compelling career path, which provides scope for your best and brightest to light up the scoreboard along the way to the top. You will quickly lose talent if you recruit on the basis of a well-mapped career path and then simply throw your new recruit(s) “special projects”.

Secondly, establish a mentoring program, utilising your most senior and experienced stakeholders. This will be a much more effective approach than simply asking your younger leaders to be patient while they “wait in the wings”. Provide enough slack to allow your younger talent to take the organisation into new territories, but ensure that an experienced mentor is always available to them for feedback and advice.

Finally, leverage up, not down. If your best and brightest clearly show that they can handle the responsibilities at one level then rapidly deliver them the next level of responsibility. Be prepared to live with a little risk and uncertainty and give your aspiring leaders a decent run at success. Don’t stand in the way of upward momentum. However, it is critical, as an experienced business leader, to step back down into the breach if and as required to lend support.

There is an important distinction between giving aspiring leaders responsibility early and having them lose confidence because they have been indiscriminately thrown in at the deep end with no support. Get this wrong and you’ll wonder why you cannot

retain talented executives.

Congratulations to every nominee in the Business News 40under40 program. The nomination process is both noteworthy and an honor in itself. As the Western Australian business community looks across this impressive array of young leaders, it is also worth reflecting upon the organisations which have provided these exceptional individuals with the opportunity to develop and excel.

The writer can be contacted at or through the office at Business News.

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