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Albemarle Corp., a specialty chemical manufacturer, has made action learning a key feature of its leadership academy. Jahleel Stewart, Albemarle’s manager of global talent management, said, “We take a comprehensive approach to development with our leadership academy, including how we manage action learning and rotational assignments. However, more parts to the solution means more effort getting those parts to work together. The key to our success has been the active involvement of company leaders in creating challenging projects that have both business and leadership value.”
How challenging? How about taking 10 percent of the costs out of the operating budget of a major business unit or developing a competitive analysis of a rapidly changing Chinese market environment? Mark Rohr, Albemarle’s chairman and CEO and a presenter in its flagship leadership program, emphasized the dual value of these projects. “Sure, the projects have bottom-line value to the company and our shareholders, but I like the fact that it stretches our emerging leaders to demonstrate fresh thinking and present creative ideas to the management committee. It tells me something about the caliber of our succession candidates,” he said.
For developmental assignments, the same rule applies. The new roles are developmental in nature, not just short-term fixes to chronic bench strength problems. Darian Rich, Albemarle’s vice president of HR said, “Our biggest talent management challenge is addressing the global needs of our business. This isn’t a ‘nice to have’ situation where we want to expose U.S.-based managers to global markets with rotational assignments. We need outstanding managers to fill jobs in those markets and take up residence. We want to give our high-potential leaders an assignment that is developmental, but also one that will prepare them to take on global roles.”
Assessment is another important element of any leadership solution. Fidelity Investments is in the fifth year of its accelerated leadership development process for high potentials. Assessment plays a key role in this program, which also includes executive coaching, team development and action learning.
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