When we think of talent pipelines, we think of young, ambitious people, who are beginning their careers or mid career at best, and eager to move up the ranks. Organizations go through great efforts to recruit, develop and retain these “go-getters” in order to build a strong leadership bench.
Challenges to Building a Leadership Bench
However, building a strong and steady leadership bench proves to be quite challenging Despite the fact that companies spend an enormous amount of money on leadership development programs and services (in the US alone, in 2014 according to Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP 35% of overall training budgets is spent on leadership training ) the results leave much to be desired. Research shows that 60% of companies are facing a leadership talent shortage that is impeding their performance.
Based on such evidence, it is safe to conclude that current efforts to grow and develop future leaders is not producing the desired goals and there is room for different measures and approaches.
Organizations have an excellent opportunity to build a robust leadership bench by increasing their efforts to develop, retain and attract women, by preparing them for challenging transitions into leadership roles.
There are four critical transition points where organizations can pro-actively boost their female leadership pipeline: early career, mid career, late career, and international assignments.
Today we want to zoom in on the late career: revitalizing the leadership pipeline by transitioning women, who have selected career deceleration at an earlier stage, back into the leadership track.
Do Women say ‘No’ to Leadership Roles?
10-20 years ago, when a woman was offered a senior role, her first reaction may have been to consider how to combine a challenging job with personal commitments. At that time, some traditional social patterns were more firmly in place than perhaps they are today. Women were still taking on more household and family responsibilities, while men were the primary breadwinners,
If a woman said ‘no’ to a leadership role, she was more likely to be taken off any succession plan and talent list. This is a true loss of talent. Over time, the priorities for many women change: children leave the parental house and care tasks end. Women, who at that time chose to decelerate their career for a period to meet non professional priorities, may now be ready to get back onto the leadership track. Now, late career women have much to offer the leadership talent pipeline.
We recommend that organizations actively tap into this pool of potential leaders by approaching late career women for leadership roles more than once and at various intervals to replenish the female talent pipeline:
- to accommodate women in their wish to choose different priorities for a certain period in their career
- to retain and promote the valuable talent of women who may have stayed in lower level positions with less responsibility
- to attract late career women back into their organizations
A New Pool of Female Leaders
This will cultivate and extend a whole new pool of potential female leaders. These late career women are highly valued, have much experience, and know the organization well. Recent research from PricewaterhouseCoopers found that among strategic leaders, late career women, aged 55, were more likely to be able to “see situations from multiple perspectives, employ positive language and exercise power courageously”. As one of the researchers said:
“this pool of talent might hold the key to transformation and in some cases, business survival.”
This realization is starting to dawn on organizations. Companies such as Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, as well as some top tier law firms, have return programs, which help professional women who have taken extended career breaks, back into senior roles.
Organizations have the possibility to access training programs to prepare experienced and highly valued late career women for a transition into leadership positions. This process bolsters their confidence, updates their understanding of current leadership approaches and positions non-linear experience as a valuable asset to an organization. By developing these late career women, organizations will not only leverage their existing talent, they will also grow their leadership talent pipeline.
Check out the leadership coaching programs and strengthen your organization’s female talent pipeline with the 3Plus coaching team