Developing employees is one of the most valuable things you can do for your business. Not only does it create an opportunity for them to grow personally and professionally, but it is also essential to the overall growth of your business. If your employees are not learning and growing, neither is your business. The best way to prepare your business for the future is to identify and develop future leaders in your organization.

Creating an intentional strategy for developing employees is one of the most important things you can do as a leader to impact the culture of your organization. This is especially true for those you would categorize as future leaders.

In fact, it might be the most important factor in preventing them from leaving your organization. According to this study from Deloitte, Millennials who leave their job within two years cite being unhappy with how their leadership skills were being developed as the primary reason. At the same time, those intending to stay with their organization for more than five years are twice as likely to be part of an intentional process for personal development.

However, many business leaders don’t know where to start when it comes to developing employees for future success. They recognize the importance of investing in employees but don’t often have a formal plan in place. In most cases, developing employees is left up to each individual manager—and there’s no systematic process.

4 Ways to Develop Employees for Personal & Professional Future Success

So, how do you develop employees for future success? Here are a few strategies you can utilize in any industry:

1. Help employees set professional development goals.

Helping your team set professional development goals in addition to the work-related objectives is a great way to develop employees. Encourage them to consider where they want to be in five years, and set specific goals that will help them get there.

We’ve found that it’s best to limit these goals to three per review period. Doing so allows employees to concentrate on their specific objectives and attain more measurable success.

2. Intentionally invest in continuing education programs for your employees.

Some businesses provide incentives or stipends for employees pursuing higher degrees of education. But, that’s not the only way to invest in the ongoing learning and growth of your employees. It could be something as simple as creating a professional development budget that employees can use to attend industry conferences or purchase books that will help them grow as a leader.

3. Encourage employees to participate in professional organizations.

Attending local, regional, national, or international conferences or workshops hosted by a professional organization is another great way to invest in the growth of your employees.

Getting them connected to a network offers a way to get additional support, advice, and information on how to grow professionally and personally. It also gives the organization another ambassador for the business.

4. Delegate responsibility as a way to help employees grow.

Every leader knows that delegation is important to free up the time to do what you do best. But, delegation is also beneficial for your employees. For some employees, being asked to take on additional work is highly-motivating, as they feel you trust them and care enough to help them continue their professional development.

How to Identify Future Leaders in Your Organization

While there are some obvious traits leaders possess (i.e. taking initiative, working hard, good with people, etc.), here are a few specific traits you can look for:

1. Future leaders naturally attract followers.

Good leadership is contagious. If you want to identify a future leader on your team, look for the person everyone enjoys being around. If people respect this person now, they’ll have an easier time respecting his or her leadership.

2. Future leaders are easy to spot in meetings.

This doesn’t mean they’re always the ones sharing their ideas. Instead, potential leaders are the ones asking the right questions, leaning in to learn more, and even challenging the status quo.

3. Future leaders can solve problems.

Good leaders are problem-solvers. If you want to identify a potential future leader in your organization, find out if he or she is gifted in solving problems and being proactive about creating solutions.

4. Future leaders bring valuable ideas to your team.

Good leaders feed off the ideas and thoughts of others. If you think a person might have the ability to become a key leader in your organization, bring him or her in on a higher-level meeting and see how the interaction goes. Does he provide value? Is she honest in her ideas and opinions? If so, that person is displaying what it takes to champion great ideas.

5. Future leaders can handle pressure.

Pressure is the catalyst for turning a piece of coal into a diamond. If you want to identify and develop leaders within your organization, give them a task or an assignment that pushes them out of their comfort zone. You’ll be able to see how they handle a glimpse of the pressure that comes with any leadership role.

Depending on the size of your organization, you might have 2-3 or 20-30 individuals who possess the traits of growing into leadership. The next step is to help them grow.

How to Develop Future Leaders in Your Organization

If you want to be intentional about developing future leaders in your organization, here are a few keys to consider:

1. Create a mentorship program.

Developing leaders takes intentionality. It doesn’t happen without having systems and processes in place to support it. This doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be as simple as hosting a brown bag lunch once a month or allowing older generation employees to leave a couple hours early to take a younger generation employee out for coffee after work.

2. Help older generation leaders see the value in investing in younger generation leaders.

Encourage your senior managers to serve as mentors and role models to your younger leaders. This will help future leaders learn the ropes more quickly and form good habits from leading others.

3. Empower future leaders with responsibility even if it means they might fail.

When young leaders are empowered, they become deeply responsible for the authority given to them. However, many young leaders are afraid to take risks that might cause them to fail. Encouraging young leaders to take risks and helping them navigate through unknown situations is an incredibly valuable way to create loyalty and help them grow.

Will You Embrace the Need to Develop Future Leaders?

The concept of developing future leaders (or lack thereof) is just the latest iteration of the truth that “people leave managers, not companies.” However, creating a system for developing leaders isn’t just about improving employee retention in the short run. There’s something bigger to it: It enables you to create a lifelong impact on the people you lead.

What’s the Right Employee Development Program for Your Business?

Every business is made up of unique individuals with a variety of passions, interests, and talents. If you’re unsure about how to create the best employee development plan for your team, we at LBMC Employment Partners can help. Connect with us today to see how we can help you set up a professional development plan for your employees. Our team can work with you to collaborate on the ideas and challenges you have when it comes to developing future leaders within your organization.