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Companies Not So Transparent on Leadership Programs


Contact:Jennifer Jones
[email protected]


While U.S. employers have become more and more open about their HR practices, they tend to remain tight-lipped when it comes to criteria for high-potential or leadership development programs, according to a survey by AMA Enterprise, a division of American Management Association.

"Companies are at least twice as open, for instance, about their business strategy or results of an employee survey than they are about their selective leadership programs," said Sandi Edwards, Senior Vice President for AMA Enterprise.

AMA Enterprise, which provides organizations with assessment, measurement and tailored learning solutions, surveyed nearly 300 senior managers, executives and employees to assess the trend toward greater transparency in employee development and career management.

Respondents were asked how transparent their organizations are with respect to selected human resources processes:




Not at all

Employee survey findings




Corporate strategy




Performance reviews




High potential selection criteria




Admission to leadership programs




According to Edwards, the secrecy that characterizes high-potential programs is often counterproductive. "Not only should such opportunities and criteria be communicated widely; they should also be clear and well-defined. Effective talent management depends on a shared sense of openness and fairness. A genuine effort should be made to inform everyone about the program criteria and even to leave open the possibility that others might be selected at a future date. Keeping open the door of opportunity is essential for holding onto top talent. If a person is not able to make the cut for a program, they know that the chance will come up again."

Edwards warned that keeping selection criteria confidential may also have the unintended outcome of making the process seem unfair or political. "We found in an earlier study that as many as one-quarter of employees regard talent development programs as less than equitable, and this perception could undermine the efficacy of any program."

Companies that set the pace in leadership development, observed Edwards, are not only transparent, they also have systematic ways of making sure the process itself is fair. "There are periodic senior management talent reviews, assessments and performance reviews, and problem-solving task forces aligned with strategic initiatives in order to gauge the high-potential leadership pipeline. Depending on future corporate needs the individuals selected should be prepared in a variety of ways to enhance these skills and opportunities for movement within the company."

The survey population consisted of 289 senior-level business, human resources, management professionals and employees drawn from the AMA database of contacts.

With more than 85 years’ experience and headquartered in New York, NY, 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.