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‘Sense of urgency’ around leadership development, says Harvard Business Publishing director

There is a growing “sense of urgency” around developing people for leadership positions earlier than in the past, according to Harvard Business Publishing senior director, global sales Nick Clayton.

Clayton told HR magazine that, having cut leadership development budgets in the recession, many business leaders are now realising they have a “backlog of leaders that really need to be developed quickly”.

“I’m noticing a sense of urgency in the C-suite around developing talent at all levels of the organisation,” he added. “It’s refreshing as it used to be just about the top, now it’s about building the bench strength of the business.”

He said that as organisations are now much leaner, people are taking on more responsibility at a younger age, meaning junior managers – particularly Millennials – need more leadership development than in the past.

He added: “How do you accelerate development of leaders so they can be prepared to take on more responsibility sooner? Organisations are interested in developing high potentials earlier in the pipeline. They are identifying them earlier and offering them mentoring and coaching.”

IHG VP of talent and leadership Gregor Thain told HR magazine the hotel company is looking more at investing “bottom up” rather than “top down” when it comes to leadership development.

“We have to be very clear with people what we expect from them as leaders so they can prepare,” he said. “There’s more expected of people [today], as teams are getting larger and demands are getting tougher.”

Thain said IHG is focusing more on bite-sized e-learning, which can be done across its 4,700 sites. “If we did things in a traditional way, we wouldn’t be able to get things to people at the right time,” he said. “We focus on the right things for the position people are in.”

E-learning is becoming a more social experience, he added. “It used to have a bit of a solo feel and now we’re making it more of a social experience,” he said, explaining how the company encourages people to post pictures on Instagram of themselves with their certificates. 

“We are making things bite-sized and quick, but connected to something bigger,” he said. “It’s important that it’s not just random. It’s tied back to our leadership competencies and levels, so [employees] can see progression, even if they are doing it in smaller chunks.”