Pharmaceutical companies must have a steady pipeline of high potential second-line leaders ready to take over senior leadership roles when the time comes. To ensure aspiring leaders have strong critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, GlaxoSmithKline uses a unique approach to leadership development based on the 70:20:10 model, with action learning as a main component.

Here’s a look at how it works and how you can apply some of these best practices to your own organization.

The 70:20:10 Model For Learning & Development

Most learning happens on the job, not in the classroom. This idea is the premise of the 70:20:10 model, which includes three main components:

  • On-the-job experiences (70%): Working with managers to identify opportunities to expand their role and take on new projects; meeting regularly with managers to review progress
  • Developmental relationships (20%): Aspiring leaders receive support through coaching, mentoring and continual feedback
  • Formal training (10%): Participating in e-learning, classroom training and reading articles and books, as well as using self-assessment tools

Although the application of this model may have changed a bit in today’s Internet age when learning tends to be less formal, it’s still a helpful way to think about development in a holistic way.

For instance, while high-potential employees may spend the majority of their time on “stretch” assignments, they also need some formal, structured training. GlaxoSmithKline recognizes this and uses this model as the basis of their leadership development program. Each year, GSK’s human resources professionals use an assessment process to identify a cohort of aspiring second-line leaders and enroll them in a leadership acceleration program. The leadership development focuses on developing essential skills such as strategic thinking, decision-making, influencing, and coaching team members. Participants learn through a combination of classroom training and resources they can access on their own, such as articles, webinars or podcasts.

Taking the Next Step: Action Learning

The culmination of GlaxoSmithKline’s aspiring second-line leader program is a capstone project that puts what they’ve learned to the test in a practical way.

Teams of participants identify an area in the company that needs improvement and spend several weeks researching the root cause of the problem and potential solutions. Then they present their recommendations to the senior leadership team. This exercise not only prompts them to apply what they’ve learned, it also furthers the company’s objectives.

The program has been in place for more than five years now and has grown in popularity. In addition to providing the company with a steady pipeline of ready-made leaders, it has also improved engagement and retention rates among employees aspiring to these roles.

Putting It All Into Practice

Formal training, informal learning and practical application are all essential to a leader’s development. Having a documented process ensures you are incorporating all these elements in a strategic manner. In addition, using a variety of flexible learning formats, such as self-guided assessments and instructor-led e-learning programs, makes training more accessible and cost-effective.

For more tips on making the most of your training, check out our latest guide, How to Grow Leaders In Minutes a Day: Training Smarter, Not Harder.

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