Many large organisations have put in place programmes to identify and develop certain employees for future leadership roles. On the face of it, that's just sound talent management. But as a new survey highlights, there's also a downside.
The problem, according to the survey of more than 500 senior managers and executives conducted by AMA Enterprise, is that leadership grooming programmes are often seen as unfair by other workers.
In fact, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of those surveyed said that efforts to identity and develop future leaders were viewed by others in their organisation as flawed but well intentioned while a similar proportion - 24 per cent – see them as unfair and political.
Barely more than one in 10 – some 12 per cent - view them as impartial and even-handed.
But how far such sentiments simply reflect the jealousy of those who feel they have been passed over is a moot point, as Sandi Edwards, Senior Vice President for AMA Enterprise, acknowledged.
"It's no surprise that organizations are inclined to limit who may apply for such programs, much less who are selected for leadership development. Many may be called, but few are chosen. Or, it could be the case that not everyone is eligible for participation given roles and responsibilities. So some unavoidable jealousy has to be factored in."
On the other hand, however, the way that organisations run their leadership programmes could give ammunition to the conspiracy theorists. Asked whether all employees were invited to apply for participation in programs for high potentials, four out of 10 of those surveyed said that participation was strictly limited according to specific criteria and a further one in five didn't know how individuals were selected.
In only 14 per cent of cases was a formal announcement made and individuals invited to express interest.
As understandable as some employee resentment may appear, Edwards cautioned senior management not to be complacent.
"At the core of effective talent management as well as employee engagement is a shared sense of openness and fairness. A real attempt must be made to let everyone know the program criteria and to leave open the possibility that others might be selected at a future date.
"Keeping open the door of opportunity is key to holding onto good workers. If an individual doesn't make the cut for entry to a program, point out that the chance will come up again."