The Ultimate Guide to Preparing Individual Contributors for Evolving Roles

By Akshaya Madurai Venkatesan

June 26, 2022


Young recruits have the potential to become tomorrow’s leaders. In the early days of their jobs, new joiners may wear multiple hats and play a spectrum of roles. They are hungry to learn and grow fast. How effectively companies nurture these impressionable young recruits has a direct bearing on the long-term sustainability, culture, and profitability of the business.

It does not matter whether new joiners are just out of college, playing generic customer service roles, or equipped with coding expertise – they need a road map for skill-building, growth, and success. Yet, companies face several challenges in preparing individual contributors for evolving roles.

The Top Three Challenges

  • While freshers may have a degree, they often lack foundational and soft skills to apply their knowledge in a professional setting. Closing the skills gap has a direct link to the efficiency and growth of the business.  
  • Most companies lack a proper induction process that equips fresh recruits with the necessary exposure to the work culture and goals of the business, which hinders their ability to perform in their jobs. 
  • A lack of holistic and relevant training frameworks means that recruits do not have access to key learning resources and hands-on learning from experts. This limits their ability to grow in their roles, leading them to hit the skills glass ceiling. 

report by PWC and the World Economic Forum predicts that if large-scale upskilling and reskilling initiatives were undertaken to close the skills gap, they could boost global GDP by $6.5T and create 5.3M net new jobs by 2030.

For businesses, some core outcomes of mapping employee growth and delivering the necessary training can be multi-fold: higher employee retention, strengthening the leadership pipeline, higher productivity, and superior collaboration. 

Nurturing Individual Contributors

Fresh recruits are inevitably looking for opportunities to grow. Companies, on the other hand, need a management pipeline to lead initiatives as they expand and scale. It sounds like a win-win, and it potentially is. This is where hiring internally makes logical sense.

Familiarity with team members and processes, an in-depth understanding of the business, and savviness about the work culture give individual contributors an edge, and they have the potential to pivot faster into challenging new roles. The second advantage is the reduction of costs by 18 to 20% compared to external hiring of managers and domain experts.

Identifying the Pipeline of Leaders

While every team member comes with unique skills, personality traits, and knowledge capital, not everyone has the same potential. An important task for businesses is to identify young team members with raw potential who can become knowledge and people leaders.

Skills can be built with the right training and exposure, but sustainable businesses can play on an employee’s strengths by recognizing their potential early on. Building a clear roadmap of skills and learning curves that employees must undertake is the key to outcome-based training programs. 

Building Core Leadership Traits 

Some companies make the mistake of picking the most talented coder or writer for team lead roles. But this is not always the right path. Some professionals want to be the top knowledge workers in their domain, while others have the ambition and drive to lead teams, even during a crisis.

Some key qualities of future leaders include a high level of accountability, assertiveness, empathy, trustworthiness, and the ability to delegate. They must be able to forge strong relationships with team members and vendors and inspire others to stay motivated.

Those individual contributors who make it to the management and leadership fast track will need to imbibe these leadership skills and qualities. So, how can companies make a start in the right direction?

Delivering Holistic Training Programs

For any kind of training to be effective, it must be measurable at all stages of the initiative. In 2020, corporations in America spent $165B on learning and development programs. Yet, 70% of employees believed that the skills taught were not in alignment with their roles.

This is why mapping training to growth is a highly strategic process, and businesses are not necessarily equipped to tackle this challenge in-house. Partnering with a superior experiential learning platform can help businesses catapult individual contributors into evolving roles with ease. Such platforms also leverage an analytics-based approach to bring efficiency and accuracy to the process. 

Here are some key training elements that can equip individual contributors with the tools to succeed:  

  • Engagement with expert practitioners offering hands-on guidance and learning in the real-world context
  • Live sessions with industry experts across a spectrum of relevant themes 
  • Access to learning resources based on emerging domain concepts 
  • Foundation-building through exposure to the company’s vision, mission, and goals 
  • Nurturing key domain-related skills

Cultivating a Mentorship Programme

Research indicates that there is a direct correlation between career success and the early implementation of mentorship. In the context of workplaces, companies that build mentorship frameworks also tend to have higher retention of team members who grow into leadership roles.

The program can have mentors from within the company as well as external stakeholders, including investors and collaborators. Companies can also invite industry experts to address team members and share their real-world experiences. This kind of exposure serves as motivation for team members who are looking for opportunities to expand their horizons. 

Additional Measures 

Companies can also put in place some innovative measures to bring challenges and novel learning experiences into the daily lives of individual contributors. These can include: 

  • Creating leadership opportunities: New joiners can be put in charge of smaller, challenging projects where the stakes are not too high. This gives them real-world experience and an opportunity for businesses to understand their potential. It might present some real surprises. 
  • Mentees become mentors: The mentorship hierarchy can be an expansive one. New joiners can prove to be relevant mentors for even more recent joiners. This is a great way to build relationships, communication skills, and empathy. 
  • Encourage collaboration and delegation: These are two important qualities in future leaders, so why not get the ball rolling early on? Encourage individual contributors to work in teams and hone their collaboration and delegation skills on the job. 

In Conclusion

Partnering with an experiential learning platform enables companies to focus on their core business while letting experts take over the job of training fresh recruits for the future. Other by-products include higher retention rates, cost savings in hiring for evolving roles, and a work culture that builds continuity. 

If you are also looking to build a comprehensive training and mentorship framework to harness the potential of individual contributors in your company, AntWalk’s Activate Platform is specifically curated to address this challenge.

Activate empowers early professionals, encourages adaptability, and supports their wellbeing. Over 120 competencies have been delivered to date, and the program has successfully engineered transformative growth for thousands of early professionals, enabling them to take on key roles in their company’s growth trajectory. 

Akshaya Madurai Venkatesan

Product Marketing Manager @ AntWalk, Akshaya loves the marketing universe, is a lethargic poet, a plant parent, and a stellar cook!

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