Deloitte’s most recent Global Human Capital Trends survey highlighted a worrying disparity between the perceived importance of leadership as an issue for business success, and preparations to combat the ever-growing leadership skills gap. 86% of global respondents named leadership as a top-three issue in their company, with 50% qualifying their leadership deficit as ‘very important’. Despite the fact that leadership programme spending has increased since the 2014 survey, just 6% of organisations are confident that their leadership pipeline is ‘very ready’.

Why does it matter?

Picture the scene: after making it through the recession, your business is now hit by further instability in the form of a leadership skills gap. Perhaps a vital member of the senior management team has just left you for pastures new, leaving a gaping hole in your business strategy. Perhaps you are trying to fill the vacancy, fighting the talent war without managers ready to rise through the ranks internally. Perhaps you are discovering the staggering cost of replacing lost staff (over £30,000 per employee). And perhaps you are regretting not benchmarking necessary leadership skills and developing your talent to prepare for this moment…

Demographics are also working against businesses who neglect their talent pipelines; with Baby Boomers retiring at an accelerated pace, and more and more people entering the workforce annually, a solid leadership pipeline has never been more crucial.

Without a supply of future leaders, you are in danger of falling headlong into a capability gap, but without the necessary CPD and training systems in place for future leaders, you risk losing your best talent before they can even become your future managers. Internal promotions can pay dividends in more than just the money saved in rehiring; people you have developed and invested in are more likely to stay with the company, will understand the company’s values, and, given the right training, can ease the transition between leaders. A good talent pipeline promotes the free flow of skills through the organisation, from bottom to top, and provides you with an internal talent pool from which to pick your future leaders when the time comes.

‘But how do I know if my company’s talent pipeline is ready?’

With such huge strategic issues, it is often difficult to see the wood for the trees, but Discovery Performance are here to help. Why not ask yourself the questions on our talent pipeline checklist to see how prepared your pipeline is?

Talent Pipeline Health Check

  1. How many of your senior management roles are filled internally? The average is just 55% – how do your stats compare?
  2. Do you know what ‘good’ looks like in your organisation, and which current employees are demonstrating the correct behaviours and values?
  3. Do you expect managers to have received relevant training prior to promotion? Just 18% of businesses state that they do – are you part of the 82% who don’t?
  4. Do you know which skills you want your leaders and managers to have, and are you providing adequate training for staff to develop these skills?
  5. Are you focusing on training existing senior managers rather than emerging talent
  6. How prepared do you feel for the loss of key managers (through retirement, moving on, and so on)?

How to create a healthy talent pipeline (or strengthen a sickly one!)

  1. Take your company’s talent temperature

It is best to begin any project by first knowing exactly where you stand, so we recommend collating some statistics on where your management is coming from, and what the employee turnover situation is in your organisation. Once you have this information, it is much easier to see where the problem areas lie.

  1. Benchmark behaviours and refine your business strategy

Creating a talent pipeline requires strategy, goals, and an idea of where you want to end up. What is the key driver of your business – is it sales, R&D, or somewhere else? What are the key roles which help your company to succeed? Consider using an appraisal system to really work out what values and behaviours your company needs to cultivate in your people to succeed, or running a development centre to identify undeveloped internal talent. Until you know what you need or want from your people, creating a talent pipeline is an impossible task.

  1. Take stock of current training initiatives

What training are your people currently receiving? Are they receiving any at all? Are all the people who need training given access to relevant opportunities? What has or has not worked for you in the past?

  1. Targeted training and development

Now you know what skills your people need, and where these might be lacking, you can start to target development according to staff experience and attributes. A development centre could also be inserted into this stage in the process, to identify key talent for development, or key behavioural issues to tackle. With a successful talent pipeline, you can target your investment in training and development and avoid wasting money on inappropriate training programmes.

  1. Develop your Millenials

53% of Millenials are aiming to be a leader or senior executive of a company during their career, but just 6% of businesses have ‘excellent’ Millenial-development programmes. Over 700,000 Baby Boomers are now retiring annually in the UK, and the capability gap just keeps yawning wider. If you don’t invest in training your emerging talent, you are jeopardising your company’s future.

  1. Find and cultivate talent

Once you know what you’re looking for and how to develop it, you can start planning for the future. Where are your future leaders coming from? Identify and develop key employees,throughout your organisation, and you will be far better prepared for any management changes.


It might seem a daunting proposition, but creating a sustainable talent pipeline is vital to modern business success. As we’ve said many a time here at Performance: if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got. In this case, you may even get less than you always got by failing to adjust to a changing employment climate and plan for the future!

Written by Florence Sturt-Hammond