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Leadership Programs Often Seen as Unfair


Corporate programs to identify and develop certain employees for future leadership positions are often seen as unfair and political by other workers, according to an online survey of more than 500 senior managers and executives conducted by AMA Enterprise.

“One-quarter of employees in the U.S. and Canada tend to regard talent development programs as less than equitable,” said Sandi Edwards, Senior Vice President for AMA Enterprise, a specialized division of American Management Association that offers advisory services and tailored learning programs to organizations. “On the contrary, it seems just 12% consider efforts to identity and develop future leaders as impartial and even-handed.”

How is the high potential program perceived by your organization’s employees?
Impartial and even-handed  12%
Flawed, but well-intentioned  27%
Unfair and political  24%
Don’t know 37%

Moreover, the survey respondents suggest that even employees who may be favorably disposed to leadership programs think they are in some way flawed, observed Edwards. “Equally striking is that 37% of respondents have little idea how development programs may be perceived by employees as a whole.”

Edwards acknowledged that one reason for the perceived unfairness is the selectivity of leadership programs. “It’s no surprise that organizations are inclined to limit who may apply for such programs, much less who are selected for leadership development. Many may be called, but few are chosen. Or, it could be the case that not everyone is eligible for participation given roles and responsibilities. So some unavoidable jealousy has to be factored in.”

At your organization are all employees invited to apply for participation in programs for high potentials?
Yes, periodically an announcement is made.   14%
No announcement is made, but interested employees learn of such programs informally and may ask to participate.  24%
No, participation is strictly limited according to specific criteria.  41%
Don’t know 21%

As understandable as some employee resentment may appear, Edwards cautioned senior management not to be complacent. “At the core of effective talent management as well as employee engagement is a shared sense of openness and fairness. A real attempt must be made to let everyone know the program criteria and to leave open the possibility that others might be selected at a future date. Keeping open the door of opportunity is key to holding onto good workers. If an individual doesn’t make the cut for entry to a program, point out that the chance will come up again.”

AMA Enterprise conducted the online survey in April and May 2011 in order to explore policies and attitudes in regard to high potential programs. The survey population consisted of primarily senior-level business, human resources and management professional contacts drawn from the AMA database of contacts. 

With more than 85 years’ experience and headquartered in New York, American Management Association (www.amanet.org) is a global leader of comprehensive talent development. AMA Enterprise, a specialized division of AMA dedicated to building corporate and government solutions, transforms enterprise-wide talent to fuel a culture of innovation, high performance and optimal business results.

AMA is one of the most widely recognized leaders in business training, having provided corporate training solutions for over 95 years. From leadership, communication and managerial training to sales, customer service and analytical skills, AMA has developed a vast array of content and training solutions to help individuals and organizations achieve business results . Each year, AMA delivers thousands of seminars and courses across the United States. With courses offered in a  classroom near you or live online, AMA is a flexible, convenient resource for all of your organization's talent development needs. AMA also offers customized solutions based on your specific talent development requirements.