Project Management Professional (PMP)® Articles - Identifying Rising Stars: Six Tips for Training Up New Leaders

Identifying Rising Stars: Six Tips for Training Up New Leaders

Management fields across the board are growing. According to recent BLS data, management is slated to see a five percent increase in job needs over the next decade. This finding is five percent higher than the average job growth for other fields. While the data refers to management positions broadly, it is safe to assume that project management, specifically, will also see job growth—especially if this finding by PMI continues to prove right.

These stats reveal that you will likely need more support either in your company or your teams in relation to project management. So, where are you going to find that new talent? A solution could be training new leaders ahead of time to get them ready for the needs you will have in the short and long-term.

An article by SHRM revealed the benefits of hiring from within. Daniel Sonsino, vice president of talent management at Polycom, a voice and video communications company, discussed his switch to a "think inside first" approach. The benefits for him and the company were that internal hires retain organizational knowledge, employee referrals will likely increase, and a potential rise in engagement.

The challenging part is knowing how to identify these people. And once you do, the next step is knowing how to train them up. Here are a few tips for how you can identify rising stars in your company and cultivate them for new project management-related roles.

Realize When You Need to “Buy” and When You Need to “Build”

One of the most challenging things you and your leadership teams may face is deciding when to hire outside the company and searching for talent from within. Sonsino labeled it as "building and buying." It's essential to assess every position and see when doing one over another is more beneficial for you.

For example, you may have a job that depends heavily on organizational knowledge and an understanding of the company's inner workings. This situation may make an internal hire more attractive. On the other hand, if you are heading up a new program or project that requires new ideas and skills that may not be developed in your company, then an external hire may be the way to go.

Assess and Focus on Potential

You may be tempted to only look at numbers and productivity. While this should factor somewhat into your decision, it is vital that you also consider potential. You are looking for someone who has the attributes and qualities to be a high-performing leader. They are preparing for a job they don't yet have. Therefore, you need to assess them on qualities that will make them a great candidate for that specific occupation.

For example, qualities like training to develop new skills, volunteering to take the lead on a project, or supporting other colleagues would be attributes that you may want to look for when seeing if someone has potential. Again, you may have someone who is a high-performing employee that you want to consider, but you want to assess if they have the potential to be an exceptional leader. Know the qualities you are looking for.

Identify the Mentors in Your Company

Who are the professionals who are always volunteering to mentor new hires or have been instrumental in helping with training and onboarding? These people are where you want to put your energy and focus when it comes to leadership. Mentorship and coaching are competencies that employers can use to engage and motivate employees.

According to CNBC and Surveymonkey, people who have a mentor at work are shown to be happier at their jobs. Work satisfaction can lead to longevity. Resultantly, this is why you want to identify individuals who naturally gravitate to taking people under their wing. Technical skills and even many soft skills can be taught, but it's not easy to find people who naturally want to coach and mentor others. Therefore, keep an eye out for these people, and put them on your leadership and management development priority list.

Who is Willing to Learn?

While you want someone who is dedicated to being a mentor to others, you also want to work with someone who is willing to learn. The profession is always in a constant state of evolution, and leaders in this space must be ready to learn and sharpen their skills. A great way to identify this is to see who is signing up for training, going back to school, and attending conferences outside of the ones they are required to participate in by the company.

These people shouldn't be hard to find as 76 percent of employees look for opportunities to grow career-wise. Additionally, you want to pay attention to what they are doing after they gain the knowledge. Are they volunteering to take on new projects or offering new ideas that could help the company? These are people that you want to consider for leadership roles.

Allow Them to Showcase Their Leadership Skills

It's essential that you allow potential leaders to have the opportunity to try out their leadership skills. This situation is where you want to delegate more things to them and give them more responsibility. You can do this by selecting them as team leads or allowing them to own a part of the project management process.

This scenario enables you to do two things. The first is seeing how they handle being in a role of leadership. The second is to give you a chance to coach them through these moments. Delegating things to them enables you to work with them in a controlled environment, making it easier for them to ask questions or for you to offer guidance in real-time.

What's Their Investment in the Company?

One of the qualities you want in up-and-coming leaders is for them to have a high level of investment in the company. The more invested and engaged they are, the likelier they are to stick around and put what they can into the company. This situation is where those "where do you see yourself in five years" questions come in handy.

Additionally, are they always looking for ways to streamline processes or create ideas that further the development of the company? If so, then these are individuals who have the makings to be good leaders. Ultimately, you want someone who takes ownership of their work and strives to use their talents to be an asset to the company.

Building Leaders is Paramount to Your Company's Success

Again, there may be times where you have to venture outside of your company to find exceptional leaders. However, don't forget about the talent pool right in front of you: your employees and colleagues. These individuals benefit from knowing your organization's mission, vision, and goals while also having a history that you can refer to.

If you prioritize the qualities of mentorship, a dedication to learning and developing, and an investment in the company, then you are more than likely to find internal employees who would be exceptional options to move into leadership roles.

Sources:

28 Interesting Employee Training Statistics, https://leftronic.com/employee-training-statistics/

Management Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/home.htm

Nine in 10 workers who have a career mentor say they are happy in their jobs, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/07/16/nine-in-10-workers-who-have-a-mentor-say-they-are-happy-in-their-jobs.html

Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027, https://www.pmi.org/learning/careers/job-growth

Weighing Internal vs. External Hires, https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/010215-hiring.aspx