What do you do when there aren’t enough experienced leaders in your organization?
Typically, there are two routes available. There is a “buy” approach, when talent acquisition professionals are charged with stepping up their recruiting activity. Or there is the “build” approach, when talent development professionals create programs that prepare internal talent to fill in the gaps.
Often described as a leadership pipeline, a term popularized by business consultant and prolific author Ram Charan in his book by the same name, identifying and developing key talent to step into important leadership roles is often considered the more cost-effective route.
And that’s exactly what our client DexKo Global discovered.
After successfully completing a large merger (Dexter and AL-KO) and several acquisitions in rapid succession, this Michigan-based manufacturer had ballooned to $5.3 billion in revenue and more than 8,000 employees throughout North and South America, Europe, Oceania, Asia, and Africa. DexKo provides axles, chassis, and other components for trailer, towable equipment, and RV manufacturers worldwide.
It wasn’t all smooth travels, however. This fast-paced growth was outpacing the development of leadership talent. The mismatch initiated a key strategic objective:
Find, develop, and support leadership talent from within to create strong leaders who have the skills to fuel the growth of the organization.
DexKo expanded their global talent department to create a strategy, develop processes, and execute plans and programs to support the development of employees. One of the first initiatives they envisioned and executed after creating leadership success standards was the development and launch of NEXT, a global leadership development program for senior and emerging leaders among both their salaried white-collar staff and plant managers.
In a Dion Leadership webinar, I facilitated a conversation with Chuck Jozwiak, the Director of Global Talent for DexKo. Webinar attendees heard how the NEXT leadership development program was co-developed with Dion Leadership and how we employed a variety of pertinent content and learning modalities to engage 131 leaders between 2019 and 2023.
While this blog post cannot fully capture the comprehensive nature of the design and rollout of the program, my conversation with Chuck during the webinar provides an excellent overview. I encourage you to watch the webinar recording to hear the case study and learn more.
To pique your interest, I would like to share some of the incredible results with you.
We tracked two kinds of success metrics for this program: training activity and outcomes. For training activity, the program garnered nearly perfect scores:
- Participation—96% attendance
- Evaluation—94% agree/strongly agree participation was a good use of their time.
- Program Completion—100%
In addition, the NEXT program resulted in an 83% retention rate and 50% promotion of participants. The engagement scores for these participants were 11% higher than the average employee population. And finally, the percentage of ready-now successors for open positions jumped dramatically—from 44% to 88% in one business unit and from 35% to 55% in another.
And lastly, let’s get to the cost savings that I mentioned at the start of this article. DexKo found that it was able to avoid the pricy cost of acquiring dozens of leaders from outside the company. At the conservative rate of 35% of the new leader’s first-year salary, the company was able to not only partially fund this program but also obtain a significant return on its investment. This is a hard dollar cost savings that went right to the bottom line at a time when the organization needed it for its growth initiatives. Not only were recruiting costs severely reduced, but the positive impact on the culture and the person getting up to speed faster in their new position, with all their institutional knowledge ready and available, had a priceless benefit. These intangible benefits directly contributed to the success and growth of the company.
What were this leadership pipeline program differentiators? Stay tuned! In next month’s blog, I’ll be discussing the ten characteristics that set this program apart.
Please reach out to me anytime if you’d like to discuss your organization’s approach to leadership development and leadership coaching or other leadership pipeline-building strategies. I am happy to share my experience with you.