Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How to Groom the Leaders your Company Needs

Leadership Development Programs (LDPs) are more than the latest buzz phrase in recruitment. These programs are an excellent way to parlay leaders from the nation’s military into leaders at your company. Aimed at Junior  Military  Officers  who  have  a strong  track  record  of  performance, implementing an LDP is an excellent way to combine the best practices that will help retain your best veteran employees with practical training like rotational   opportunities,   classroom   development,   and   varied assignments. 

LDP opportunities are not as common as traditional management, engineering or sales opportunities and are a unique opportunity for job seekers.  Only a small percentage of companies offer these intensive programs, but they reap highly qualified, loyal leaders. We have found LDPs to result in an average retention rate of greater than 90% at two years, thanks in part to the inclusion of veteran affinity groups and mentorship programs in the programs

A review of the concerns of our own transitioning veterans reveals that LDPs are great answer to the expectations many military leaders have as they transition. Having come from an environment where training is paramount and their role career progression  is clearly defined, civilian careers can often appear unclear in terms of training, job responsibilities, and, perhaps most importantly, career advancement. LDPs not only onboard and train your employees, but they also provide a concrete career path.

As  your veteran employees  progress  through  an  LDP,  they  will  gain  valuable  experience  needed  to  lead  and succeed at the highest levels within your organization, as well as gain exposure to various  business units within the company in order to increase their knowledge base. LDPs fit well into many different industries and can encompass Operations Leadership, Sales and Marketing, as well as Engineering:

Typical Operations LDPs require new team members to complete initial training, rotate through various operational facilities for both on the job training and curriculum based training, and work with LDP mentors on a periodic basis.  Some Operations LDPs require rotation through various business units, as well, to gain exposure to marketing, finance, sales, and other roles. This provides the understanding of the business your new employee will need  to  function  as  a  future  leader  in  the  organization,  but  may  also  result  in  helping  them  find  their  niche  within  the organization. After completing this type of LDP, employees will be assigned a permanent role in operations.

A Sales and Marketing Development Program combines   various   business   and   technical   learning   workshops,   networking opportunities  with  various  levels  of  the  organization,  and  separate  job  rotation  assignments. Rotations typically include a field sales assignment, a marketing assignment, and other various business unit assignments. Participants receive hands-on mentoring, travel opportunities, classroom development, and networking opportunities.

Engineering  Development  Program  participants  are  typically  placed  at  a manufacturing  plant  or  oil  and  gas refinery  for  training.  During  this  time,  they are  mentored  by  seasoned technical  professionals  and  confront  vast  technical  challenges  found  in  these environments.  Examples of formal training include safety leadership, manufacturing processes and product, applied statistics, and leadership development. At the conclusion of training, graduates are placed in a full-time assignment as a Manufacturing or Project Engineer.

Brian Schulz
A great example of a Leadership Development Program at work can be found in Brian Schulz and his career with Medtronic Spinal & Biologics. Hired as part of a Sales Development Program in 2007, Schulz had no healthcare and/or sales experience but excellent potential. Medtronic heavily recruited people with prior military experience for this program, because they recognized the valuable skill sets veterans had learned while on active duty.

Medtronic's program is 18 months in duration with the first four to six months spent learning the concepts of Spine and Biologics Sales, gaining exposure to business functions, assisting with sales and surgeon training labs, and providing other sales support. In the next phase, participants spend approximately 12-14 months in the field with a mentor/trainer, interacting with customers, and learning, observing, and performing the day-to-day activities of a Commissioned Spine Representative. At the end of the program, they are eligible for opportunities as a Commissioned Spine Representative.

It appears the program has paid off, as Schulz is now a District Sales Manager with Medtronic.  “In addition to being voted the ‘most valuable person’ on my first district sales team, I received a ‘40 under 40 Award’ given by the Billings Gazette and the Roche Jaune Award by the Billings Chamber of Commerce for Salesperson Excellence,” Schulz explains, “My first award was especially rewarding, because it helped me recognize that while I had the least sales experience on the team, I was still able to be seen as an asset by my teammates. I discovered that the leadership, teamwork, and mission focus I learned in the military was directly transferable to my civilian job.”

In addition to LDPs or when they are not an option, many companies try to institute at least a few veteran-friendly programs. Examples include featuring veterans on your website that are currently succeeding in the types of positions you’re seeking to fill with veterans.  You can also design and implement military friendly HR policies and practices.  Finally, many companies create programs designed to assist veterans with transition matters by matching them up with other veterans.

Companies like Medtronic, Siemens, Owens Corning, and Kansas City Southern Railroad have realized the benefit of an LDP both to their companies and to their veteran employees. And while implementing such a program takes resources, it can more than pay off in the end.   LDPs are a great system for cultivating enthusiastic employees who feel prepared for their new leadership role within your company. 

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