How Universal Music Group Develops Rock Star Employees at Scale with Development Programs

With talent shortages at a record high, companies around the world are experiencing a substantial shortage of leaders, so more development programs are necessary. According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends, 83% of organizations struggle to find and develop future leaders, with only 15% stating that they have well-qualified candidates for future leadership roles.

Under such conditions, proactive companies are paying greater attention to identifying and developing their high potentials in the workplace—the untapped talent pool of future leaders.

The 8th of March is just around the corner, and we’re excited to celebrate International Women’s Day with a prominent female leader Maribel Hines, VP, Talent & Organization Development at Universal Music Group. Having been helping the company to develop and engage high potentials for more than six years, she’s savvy about how to train and grow the talent pipeline of future successors for key positions.

Every industry and every organization has its own unique culture and specific goals, so there‘s no universal high potential program that would successfully work for any company. However, every L&D professional can use Maribel’s pro tips to set a strategic direction for the development of high potentials within their company.

Gut instincts and data is what you need to spot rock star employees

The challenge of selecting the right candidates for future leadership roles lies in companies misinterpreting high performers for high potentials. Gallup’s Report states that the top two reasons employees get promotions to leadership positions are “because they were successful in a non-managerial role and they have experience and tenure with the company”. However, companies forget that high-performing employees might not be that successful in a leadership role. Not everybody is ready to get responsibilities of bigger scope and lead others. This is why only 35% of managers are engaged at work.

Another challenge is that even if companies look for leadership potential signs in their employees, in most cases, they rely only on managers’ observations and intuition, which are not enough to accurately identify high potentials. Maribel says that HR departments have to collaborate closely with leaders to help them get past their own biases and preconceived notions of who should be developed. But besides intuition, you need to be data-driven and able to integrate data in the decision-making process to supplement your intuition.

You need both [data and intuition], and solely relying on one measure is dangerous. Data is only as good as the people who are contributing to it, as well as recording it. And people are subjective even when discussing and attributing data to specific individuals. I don’t feel data should be exclusively relied upon when identifying and selecting high potentials. This could work well in identifying people in roles like finance, sales and ITbut it does not work well as the sole measure to identify high potentials in creative roles like marketing or advertising.

Maribel highlights the importance of the right mix of data-driven analysis and intuition that together lead to more accurate predictions in the discovery of high potentials. This way, business leaders will avoid the risk of tapping only those rising stars that mirror themselves or select people based on the recency of their accomplishments or the proximity of their role to their own.

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Ensuring growth opportunities for each of your high potentials

The next step in developing future leaders is the acceleration of high potentials’ growth. Once they’re identified and selected, some companies just don’t know how to use all the collected data while building growth plans. In fact, a whopping 95% of companies struggle to follow through on high potential development plans.

Maribel offers a number of actionable pro tips to design growth paths toward success for high potentials.

  • Check in with them often: Ask how they’re doing; assess their current engagement; collaboratively discuss continued opportunities for them to grow and produce tangible results that keep them engaged. High potentials can have specific challenges and aspirations that need to be discussed with their managers to have a better understanding of where to direct them in order not to lose focus.
  • Offer high-visibility projects to stretch them beyond their skills and talents. And give them the support they need to be successful. No employee wants to stand still or perform some routine tasks every single day. When it comes to high potentials, this aspect becomes even more crucial. This is why companies need to offer experiences that will challenge and motivate them to keep going.
  • Invest in a leadership and/or executive coach. Be proactive in the areas the coach helps them fine-tune and prepare for. For high potentials to grow personally and professionally, there needs to be highly targeted support aligned with the individual’s needs and objectives. Coaches can help organizations identify growth areas and develop strategies to unlock employees’ full potentials based on their unique goals.
  • Provide transition coaching and support if a high potential is settling into a bigger role. Even though companies are confident in a certain employee’s success in a new leadership role, they have to provide relevant training to develop the skills needed for that position. Rotations can serve as effective on-the-job training that enables high potentials to gain invaluable experience and better understand the functions and responsibilities of team members.

The development of growth opportunities can only be effective when combined with personalized training programs designed to turn high potentials into successful leaders. So this step has to go hand in hand with development growth plans.  

Six steps to scale high potential development programs

Many companies still struggle to provide high potentials with effective development programs. This problem lies not in poor content design but in a lack of resources to ensure scalability. Often, such programs fail to grow with an individual’s and company’s needs as well as provide insights into ROI and employees’ progress.

Studies show that among the 39% of companies that provide leadership development programs only 15% think they’re effective. And findings from Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report reveal that only 10% of organizations have an effective succession program. Having a vast experience in building efficient development programs, Maribel shares her practice-proven steps to tune in scalability.

  1. Start with understanding the business priorities and strategy. Priorities direct the strategic focus of companies and translate into specific activities, and these very activities have to be at the heart of designing programs for successful leadership development.
  2. Understand the pain points and challenges in attracting, developing and retaining talent. While defining priorities and strategy, it’s crucial for business leaders to pinpoint all the weak spots to effectively address them in the development of programs later on. This way, future leaders will know how to avoid current issues related to talent pipeline growth.
  3. Identify a target role or level to develop. Any training program should be aimed at addressing specific knowledge/skills gaps, job roles, business objectives, and the like. This is the only way to measure the real outcomes of training and suggest necessary modifications for improvements.
  4. Evaluate a few essential competencies and success criteria for that role or level. Following the previous step, competencies and criteria are “landmarks” that allow to accurately measure the results of development programs and to make training more targeted towards specific goals.
  5. Build a robust program with multi-pronged experiences. From Maribel’s experience, the most comprehensive set of experience-building elements are the following: diagnostic assessments and 360s; 1:1 coaching; 1:1 mentoring or small group mentoring; executive insights conversations; skills-based workshops; group sessions; and action learning projects based on a real company case challenge.
  6. Partner with the right external vendors to solidify the framework and overall high potential development experience. The majority of top companies leverage smart learning platforms to scale their development programs, cut training costs, engage employees, and get continuous metrics about their participation, progress, knowledge gaps, etc.

These six steps toward scalability will serve as a solid foundation for any company’s future growth and will multiply the effectiveness of your development programs in the long term.

How Millennial and Gen Z high potentials will challenge creative industries by 2029

Maribel believes that within the next ten years, innovation will continue to be at the forefront of how companies distinguish themselves from the competition and secure a stronger market base. As for the music industry that grew rapidly, matured, plateaued and is now in the throes of transformation, the biggest changes will be in the way the image of a global superstar is made, the role of content creation for artists’ successful careers and, most importantly, business transparency.

According to Maribel, business transparency in the music industry is changing, and the way the industry operates will be more important than ever. Companies that will take their employees along on their journeys and proactively communicate will strengthen engagement and loyalty. Gen Zers and Millennials will keep challenging the industry to better clarify what companies stand for and what the vision and future of their organization could be. Those businesses that manage to align their goals with these generations’ personal values will retain top talent for the long term.

To motivate and engage your workforce, you’ll need the right technology – a platform using context and data to trigger the right activities at the right times for the right behaviors. Click here to see Rallyware in action or read more about our performance enablement suite.