By Rachel M. Anderson, Contributing Writer
Whether you’re talking about a business that is part of the banking industry, the construction industry, education, manufacturing or some other aspect of the economy, the key to success is the same. The most successful companies in the world—Apple, General Electric and Ford to name a few—have all had leaders who are considered visionaries who focus not just on the present, but the future.
Coming up with the next big innovation is only a small piece of the puzzle. “The true key to success is being able to develop the talent that will lead the company tomorrow,” said Rod Johnson, founder and president of Growing Your Leaders, a talent and leadership development firm in Lakeland, Minn.
There’s no question about the importance of this concept. So why is it that a majority of companies are so quick to try and hire from the outside anytime they have an opening in the leadership ranks, rather than hiring from within? “I think the reason a lot of companies are not developing talent is simple. They don’t understand what talent development looks like, so they don’t adequately invest in it, but they should,” said Johnson, who goes on to explain why.
“What a lot of small to mid-sized businesses historically have done is they’ve gone out into the marketplace and tried to hire people off the street so-to-speak. The challenge with that is you have the Baby Boomers starting to retire at an accelerated pace. You have Gen X beneath them that could come in and fill some of those positions. Then below them you have the not-quite-ready Gen Y and Millennials. This is creating a huge imbalance in the marketplace, which is being characterized by very high demand and low supply for talent today. In the marketplace, this scenario is creating sharp wage inflation, especially for individuals ready to fill key management and leadership positions.”
While yes, the estimated 82 million Millennials (those born between 1977 and 1995) are the ones who will ultimately need to fill these positions within companies, there’s a disconnect. Millennials learn and process information differently than their predecessors, which is creating a significant challenge for most organizations. “Millennials don’t have the mindset for reading a manual for two hours to figure something out,” said Johnson. “They want to go to the Internet and browse chat rooms to find answers. They like to learn as a group and pose questions and get their answers from people they may know, or may have never met in their life.”
Johnson points out, “The quicker we recognize that Millennials don’t learn well in a traditional classroom setting, the faster we’ll be able to meet their needs and ultimately ours. We must appreciate that they’re a much more collaborative generation and learn best by learning from and being challenged by others.”
Through his talent and leadership development business, Growing Your Leaders, Johnson has developed a series of innovative learning tools that are highly effective at training Gen X and Millennials for management and leadership roles. “We simply turned training upside down. Rather than having a trainer deliver content, we create a social learning environment with the understanding that the knowledge is in the room. Where we’ve deployed our Peer Insight program, the results have been remarkable. The reason being, people are able to learn the way they like to learn, from each other.”
Johnson points out, “Millennials could easily be called the misunderstood generation. They’re highly educated, technically savvy and somewhat unwilling to simply follow in their predecessor’s footsteps. If we’re going to prepare them for future management and leadership positions, organizations will need to rethink their training methodologies. The Peer Insight tool is comprised of over 40 topics and is the most innovative training tool to reach the learning and development industry in over a decade. It also serves as a knowledge transfer tool at the same time.”
Another tool Johnson uses during his consults is a workshop based on the book he recently wrote. In Growing Your Leaders: A Fable that Will Change How You Value Talent and Leadership Development, published in Spring 2014, Johnson helps companies realize that in order to have sustainability in the marketplace tomorrow they need to start developing their own talent today.
The book is written as a fable and seen through the eyes and experiences of Rod, the CEO of B&R Manufacturing. Rod has decided to visit a remote ski hut in the mountains of Colorado to reflect on why his business isn’t performing.
Readers learn that Rod had taken over the company six years ago after his uncle was diagnosed with cancer. The changes he made right away had improved the bottom line significantly. However, all his hard work had come at a price. Yes, he had people in leadership roles beneath him, but his employees were not empowered to make decisions. Accompanying the book is a talent discussion guide to be used with boards, leaders and managers to assess their company’s talent development programs and the changes that need to be made to sustain the company well into the future.
“Businesses cannot afford to have the Fortune 500 companies grow their talent for them and then just figure how to buy it from them. It’s just not going to be there. Through my workshops, I am able to help leaders figure out how to develop the talent they already have,” said Johnson.
To learn more about Rod Johnson and the talent development resources available at Growing Your Leaders, visit www.growingyourleaders.com.