Developing Talent From Within: Training the Next Generation of Leadership

In the next few years, as more baby boomers head into retirement, the “Great Resignation” is predicted to sweep across the nation. According to a national survey of public sector HR leaders, we can expect as much as 69% of leaders in the public sector to resign in the coming years.

To avoid being left with a leadership vacuum, the public sector needs a plan in place to recruit a new set of leaders. Ideally, hiring managers can start from within by establishing internal leadership pipelines through which emerging internal talent can rise to leadership positions. Find out how you can train a new generation of leaders from within, rather than recruiting from outside, and how it will benefit your public sector organization.

How to Develop an Internal Leadership Pipeline

Proactive is always better than reactive. An internal leadership pipeline means you take a proactive approach in identifying, training and supporting internal talent. These employees will move through various stages of the pipeline and emerge ready to fill the roles left by exiting leadership.

Here are four ways to develop an internal leadership pipeline to avoid a talent drain when the anticipated great resignation hits.

1. Evaluate Your Internal HR strategy

Many recruitment strategies focus strongly on external recruitment, with minimal attention given to internal recruitment. Take time to assess your internal HR strategy. Does it include processes to identify internal talent and invest in employee training programs? Are departmental managers working with HR to develop strategies to support and nurture the organization’s future leaders?

2. Conduct a Skills Audit

Do you really know what your employees are capable of? Did you know Joe the accountant also spearheads his local community neighborhood watch? He could provide valuable crime insights working with the local police department. Conducting a skills audit can accomplish two things: identify the gaps that are missing in your organization’s leadership and find hidden skills among your current employees.

3. Upskill Your Employees

When you do find promising employees, you should provide further training to improve or add to their skill set. This could involve training on new or emerging technology, technical skills and leadership skills. Another great way to upskill your employees is through mentorship and executive coaching programs. One-on-one coaching sessions with experienced leaders can help them reach their goals faster.

4. Provide Stretch Opportunities

Some of your employees may have great leadership potential but lack confidence. Provide opportunities for employees to stretch and step out of their comfort zone. Assign high-level tasks, include them in strategic decisions or have them join management teams. Remember, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. The idea of stepping into a big leadership role can be overwhelming. Providing smaller stretch opportunities helps them grow their confidence slowly.  

How Hiring and Developing Talent From Within Can Benefit Your Organization

Training the next generation of leadership can pay off in the following ways:

Fill Positions Faster

Finding new talent can be a challenge. In a survey by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence of more than 70 public sector leaders from 18 states, approximately 64% reported that they found it difficult to attract and retain talent. Long drawn-out external recruitment campaigns can leave positions vacant for months, and possibly much longer when trying to fill leadership roles. With an internal leadership pipeline, the next generation of leaders is ready to take the helm.

Lower Recruiting Costs

From a financial standpoint, It costs more to recruit and train employees hired externally than to promote employees internally. External recruitment can cost up to 1.7 times more than hiring internally.  

Increase Employee Engagement

The public sector has one of the lowest employee engagement levels. A poll by CPS HR’s Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement showed that only 38% of public sector employees are engaged compared to 44% in the private sector. An internal recruitment pipeline can turn this around. When you invest in training top talent to fill leadership roles in the future, they start to feel recognized and valued. This, in turn, increases employee engagement and retention rates.


Hiring internally means shorter onboarding and training processes. Your employees already know the organization’s history, values and challenges. They can hit the ground running.

Key Takeaways

Internal leadership development is a win-win situation for both employees and employers. Employees are more likely to stick around when there are opportunities to advance. And as an employer, you gain a more agile workforce able to effectively lead the organization well into the future.  

CPS HR works with public sector organizations to develop their future leaders. We can help you set up succession plans to grow the next generation of leaders in your organization. Call us on 916.263.3600 or fill in our online form.

Melissa Asher

With over 24 years of experience in human resources, specializing in training and development, test administration, and recruitment, Melissa brings a wealth of practical expertise to her Senior Leader role. As a hands-on leader, she is responsible for the growth and development of CPS HR’s Training and Development and Executive Search Divisions as well as leading key business development activities.

About CPS HR Consulting

CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country.  Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients.  We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.