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  • Writer's pictureSherry

Looking back on the 2020 REACH Pilot Program

At the beginning of 2020, we launched our REACH Pilot Program. It was a great experiment that stemmed from our ongoing work to reconsider what it means to prepare for leadership in a rapidly shifting landscape of work.

Before we look ahead to the new year, we wanted to take a moment to share some of the vital information we've learned along the way.

Looking back, how are you reflecting on the Pilot? Our early ideas and motivations in starting this group brought more questions then answers. Could we make a case for companies to invest in developing this specific cadre of talent? If so, what would leadership development look like for these future leaders? We decided to hold several focus groups of early careerists and learn what was important to them. We asked about their relationship to learning now that they had been out of school for 4 to 5 years. How could we craft a learning experience that would be cost-effective for companies and meaningful to this group? We discovered three things that our careerists sought out:

  • To connect and network with others

  • To learn in a community of peers from various disciplines

  • To be stretched and challenged in their thinking and development

They also all had an interest in progressing their careers, while making a greater impact or contribution to their business.

We were fortunate to find sponsors who were willing to try something new and invest in developing and retaining their young talent now, not later. We kicked off the first session in February of 2020, which started with in person visits, and quickly changed to virtual meetings in March, along with the rest of the world!

What did we learn along the way?

A virtual program can be successful and meaningful for this cohort of learners. They quickly connected and built a trusted learning group. It became a safe place for them to share thoughts, ask questions and learn together. The experience was even more relevant because we were all in a state of uncertainty and change brought on by the pandemic. Here are three highlights from their feedback at the conclusion of the pilot program:

  • Development instead of Training. Participants experienced development versus training. One learner said, "we were learning about ourselves and our own leadership path." Another stated, "I have attended training sessions to be taught how to do something, but I haven't felt like I was being developed. This was different."

  • Appreciation for a Pause (especially during a time of uncertainty). We would often hear about the importance of our conversations, "the pause that each session provided allowed for personal reflections and learning something new, whether it was from us, our guest visitors, or each other."

  • Application in Real Life Work. They were not satisfied until they had a chance to explore how they would apply what they were learning. We learned, " I appreciated the time with our guest CEO to understand crisis and how you create unity in times that can be dividing."

They inspired us (and still do)!

Here are some of the ways:

  • Their commitment to growth and learning.

  • The courage to be vulnerable and present.

  • In a time of distraction/in the midst of a global pandemic, and all of the challenges and uncertainty, they were not only willing to engage with us and each other, they seemed to thrive at the opportunity.

  • Not one of them shied away from the extra work between sessions, the conversations during our sessions, or the need to integrate and apply what they were discovering.

  • Their commitment beyond themselves. They work from a place of purpose and a desire to make a difference.

Sponsors inspired us too. They took the time to share their views and support their learner. Even with COVID, demanding calendars and all virtual work, they supported the development of their staff and acknowledged the power of connection with others.

What made the learners special? What were the unique qualities that leaders can consider in selecting talent for this program going forward?

Each sponsor took the time to consider who might be a good fit for our first group, and we learned why selection of the right talent is so important. It required learners with a sense of purpose, openness, curiosity and commitment to learning, combined with a diversity of background and professional expertise, which all contributed to a vibrant learning community.

Now What?

If you have talented young future leaders that you don’t want to lose, but don’t have a program designed to support their growth and development, we’d love to help!

Would you like to hear a bit more from three of our Pilot Group learners? Click here to read about some of their personal revelations about their time with us.

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