In 1997 the popular book Boom, Bust, & Echo sounded the alarm about the seismic demographic shift that would impact many aspects of the economy. The eventual exit of the Boomer generation from the workforce would take with it most corporate leaders and a vast population of middle management stalwarts responsible for driving the strategic and tactical aspects of corporate direction. Their extensive industry and organizational knowledge and experience provided a bedrock of corporate continuity and stability, and it became clear that they would leave a gaping chasm when they retired. 

This succession planning nightmare drove frantic efforts to identify and develop the next generation of leaders who would step up and take the organizational reins. The age of the nine-box grid dawned, and the desire to define and quantify what a future leader looked like launched a wave of new employee potential assessments. The race to identify these unicorns – or “high potentials” was on.

Flash forward to 2022, and more than a decade into betting on High Potential (HiPO) development initiatives to meet this challenge has come and gone. It has become clear that this strategy, although promising, has not delivered the desired results. Employee potential assessments are not perfect — and are subject to unconscious bias resulting in a less than inclusive pool of future leaders leading to disenchanted and disengaged employees.  

A curve ball in the form of the global pandemic caught us all by surprise. It hastened a sea change in employees’ priorities and expectations, questioning the value and desirability of traditional career paths. WFM and hybrid work models allowed us to imagine a very different work experience, but ultimately the location of your desk is just a question of geography.

The more profound questions asked by employees touch on how meaningful and fulfilling their job is, what kind of lifestyle they want for themselves and their families, and how much of themselves they are willing to devote to work. The Great Resignation has only added fuel to the five-alarm blaze that the succession planning challenge has become.

How do we reimagine leadership development so that it is more rewarding to employees and will deliver the results employers need, securing the future of their organization? 

If we take employees at their word, they want:

  1. To make more meaningful contributions at work
  2. To work for companies whose values closely align with their own

It is time to reimagine leadership development that does not require employees to fit into a neat arrangement of nine imperfect boxes. At 8020 Excellerate, we have found a better way – one that meets each unique person precisely with what they need to embody the best version of a leader they can be. This whole-person approach prepares your associates to handle adversity and the ever-changing leadership challenges with confidence and authenticity.