Faced with significant cuts from an economic downturn coupled with increased workloads, County of Riverside Court needed to ensure it had a strong pipeline of leaders who would succeed in its new flat organization structure.
The Court also realized it faced a retirement crisis, without the right internal talent to fill the gaps. With a strong historical focus on day-to-day operations, existing development programs weren’t developing the right future leaders and engagement levels were low; there was a strong urgency to act.
Brenda Lussier, chief deputy of human resources at Riverside Court, comments: “As a public agency and an under-resourced court, it was very hard to tackle talent development and succession planning alongside a forced reduction in employees. We had to use our creativity to grow and engage our judges and staff to prepare for the looming leadership crisis, especially after a significant downsizing in 2008. We didn’t have a strong bench of ready talent, and those who could be developed for future readiness were leaving the organization as they didn’t see opportunities for growth.”
Through the accurate identification of our high-potential talent and their accelerated development, [SHL] has helped us to transform leadership and the Court into a stronger operating force that the community can trust.
County of Riverside Court initially looked at its approach to identifying future leaders. Promotions favored technical experts with a strong work ethic, rather than those with proven potential.
The project started with a review of the competencies required to be a successful leader in the new operating environment overlaid on the SHL model for high potential. This was followed by the assessment of 200 supervisors and leaders for ability, aspiration for more senior roles, and longer-term engagement with the organization. These assessment results were used to determine which employees were considered high-potentials and were suited to a targeted program to support their in-role development.
Having identified the correct people to become part of the leadership development program, the process then began to look at how to develop and engage this high-potential talent and help them grow into leaders of the future. “SHL’s Development Coach was perfect for us; our people have busy schedules and high targets, so we needed an alternative to putting people into classes. Finding a solution that could be quickly implemented and that accelerated learning in the real work context was crucial,” Lussier continues.
Out of the population of high performers originally assessed, 17 percent were put through a high-potential leadership development program, and 83 percent were provided with ongoing development for their current role.
A year after the implementation of the SHL high-potential solution, the performance of the program was tracked. The findings showed that those identified as high-potentials were rated higher on leadership competencies and their projected career attainment leaned towards more senior roles than those high performers who were targeted for in-role development. Employee retention rates also have improved, giving the organization a stronger pipeline of leaders and reduced succession risk.
“Cultural change happens slowly but as we see more results coming from the program, there is a realization that we need to make talent investments for the future. This is a difference in thinking from the approach we’ve taken in the past” explains Lussier. “It has allowed us to broaden our horizons and look at leadership differently, which will ultimately save taxpayers money and will provide the justice and support the community needs.”
The program is also attracting interest from outside the organization. Lussier continues, “We’ve done something new and different for the public sector, which is interesting employees at other courts who now want to come to Riverside to be part of our development program.”