Fast-growing, middle-market organizations tend to resist talent planning, but they are the ones who stand to benefit the most from it. A well-implemented leadership development program can help companies scale, offer their workforce advancement opportunities, and solve growth-related problems.

Superior talent planning translates to better business performance.

Well-thought-out talent planning and leadership development seem to be luxuries out of the reach of most fast-growing, middle-market organizations. Such companies often fail to recognize the short- and long-term benefits leadership development can provide them. They may also deem such development efforts ill-suited for their needs, unaffordable, or overly time-consuming.

From the perspective of a relatively small organization with a flat hierarchy and a thin management layer, such concerns are all valid. That said, it is such middle-market companies that can benefit the most from talent planning/development. The solution to this conundrum is not to convince middle-market leadership that talent planning and development is a worthwhile undertaking or that not employing such programs will rob them of future opportunities.

Rather, finding ways to allay their concerns while delivering immediate results on the individual and institutional level is what can break the impasse.

How do leadership development professionals bridge the gap between the legitimate objections of middle-market business leaders and the benefits leadership development programs can deliver to these same organizations?

Framing the Program Correctly

As I have pointed out in my books and posts, the long-term benefits of talent planning and development are undeniable. The mindset of the average middle-market business leader revolves around immediate challenges, however. Often thinly managed, such organizations frequently have their top brass involved in daily operations.

Such leaders work in the business; thus, they often don’t have time to work on the business. By devising a talent management/planning program that addresses immediate problems and pressing growth-related issues, leadership development professionals can dissipate many of the objections of middle-market business leaders. Such a program makes a visible impact that showcases why a fast-growing organization can’t afford to ignore talent development.

Clarifying the Difference Between Growth and Scaling

Fast-growing companies go through the pains of growth racing against themselves. They throw more resources into the cauldron, such as more people, capital, and new technologies, in response to increasing revenues.

By implementing talent development techniques and procedures, they can scale their operation in addition to growth. And there are significant differences between scaling and growth.

By freeing up executive personnel to work on the organization instead of working in it, leadership development allows companies to increase their revenue without feeding more resources into the equation. Having thus dissociated the two variables, organizations can exceed their expectations revenue-wise while optimizing their activity.

Building Training Programs Around Real-world Problems

In a middle-market company, building individual skills while creating institutional capabilities is paramount. Such companies can’t afford to take personnel away from day-to-day operations. Implementing smaller-scale leadership development projects focusing on real-world problems that the company faces makes perfect sense.

The benefits of such an approach for the organization are obvious and far-reaching.

Creating Internal Career Opportunities

Succession is a major problem for middle-market companies. Tied up in their day jobs, the leaders of such organizations think they can’t afford to concern themselves with such “luxuries.” The truth is, however, that they can’t afford to ignore the issue.

Leadership succession planning is a boon for employees and the organization. 

Building leadership development programs around real-world problems and cross-functional projects help companies address succession while amplifying employee engagement and motivation through new opportunities for advancement.

By adopting such an approach to talent development, companies can avoid bringing in outside talent to fill key management positions as they grow.

Matching Leadership Development to the Culture of the Organization

Many middle-market companies have their roots in mom-and-pop level, founder-led initiatives. For such organizations, retaining their culture as they grow and scale is a top priority. Leadership development should always respect such priorities, aiming to reflect these particular cultural traits.

Unattended and without purposeful direction, the growth process can dilute cultural values and alter character beyond recognition. Well-targeted leadership development efforts can ensure that while the process takes place, it does not dilute the fundamental values and character of the organization.

Fast-growing, middle-market companies stand to benefit the most from purposeful and carefully implemented talent planning, despite their tendency to resist such efforts. A well-structured leadership development program can help such companies scale, cover their succession needs, motivate their workforce, and exceed revenue expectations.

To learn more about intelligent leadership, pick up my books.


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