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How to combine organizations' long-term objectives with employees' career development

Client request

A commercial enterprise wants to fill all its future general manager positions internally and hence fosters department heads early on. The subsidiary managers select subsidiary department managers who, based on his or her assessment, could be developed into assuming the position of general manager within five to ten years. These employees will be trained for the position of operations manager. Those employees who prove themselves as operations manager will later be considered for the position of general manager.


The client’s vision for now is for the department heads to attend one of our programs. This is a very traditional view, which has proven to be effective in many other situations. However, management also expresses the wish to get a first-hand impression of the participants so they can later have support when appointing the operations managers and general managers. In addition, we perceive that the organization wants to communicate that one can have a good career within the corporation. We suggest that the operations managers and general managers be included in the program. This suggestion is accepted.

Program objectives

Communicating possibility of career development inside the organization to employees
Filling general manager positions with long-time employees
Limiting turnover of senior employees
Preparing participants for operations manager position
Acting entrepreneurially
Confidently handling key figures
Confidently presenting and arguing for one’s own ideas
Being able to lead managers
Confidently making personnel decisions

Seminar design

For the basic structure, we choose a nine-month seminar with four modules, which are comprised of technical subjects as well leadership components. Before the first module takes place, a workshop for operations managers is held.  During the first module, the general manager gives employees carefully selected projects, which employees will work on, in small teams, during the duration of the seminar. In the last module, employees present their projects to the subsidiary managers and to general managers. During the course of the project, participants can rely on the support of operations managers, who have been prepared for this task during a separate workshop. This gives participants an additional opportunity to get to know operations managers from different subsidiaries. Three trainers and two internal experts participated in the seminar and gave input into technical subjects.


During the implementation phase, it quickly becomes apparent that the subsidiary managers have used different criteria for selecting the participants. Some subsidiary managers deliberately selected very young department heads, who have little experience in leadership positions, but who are extremely committed to the company. Other subsidiary managers chose department heads, who have many years‘ experience in leadership positions. Ergo, the participant group is very heterogeneous.  
The "old timers“ display a certain amount of skepticism towards the younger participants, and vice versa. When one of the "old timers“ behaves clumsily during an exercise, the differences are openly addressed. This helps the group and makes the joint learning process easier from this point forward.  The final presentations are a substantial challenge for the department heads. They are delighted by the heartfelt applause they receive from the subsidiary managers and the general managers.


Four months after the conclusion of the seminar, participants are asked, in oral interviews, how they feel about the practical and concrete application and usability of what they learned. Furthermore, participants‘ immediate supervisors and subsidiary managers are interviewed six months after the conclusion of the seminar. We plan the second program based on that feedback. The basic structure maintains intact. The question whether we should try to have more influence on the selection of the participants came up. In collaboration with the human resources development division, we decided against it, as the composition of the group is representative of department heads‘ age distribution.  The further career development of the participants in both seminars is still being observed. The position of a subsidiary manager will be filled from the pool of the seminar participants. Out of the five operations manager positions to be filled, four hires can come from within the ranks of the organization.