Insightful Ideas

Learn more about our leadership expertise and topics related to business acumen, strategy execution, new leadership and finding your own personal balance of leadership.
All Posts

Why Early-Career Leadership Development Matters

While the Great Resignation has been making headlines the last few months, a similar phenomenon has been underway for much longer: The Great Retirement. In the third quarter of 2020 alone, roughly 30 million Baby Boomers left the job market and, since then, the rate of retirement among this population has accelerated[1]. The greatest “so what” of both trends is that Millennials and members of Generation Z will need to fill the gap in leadership roles.

But do these populations have the necessary skills to be successful with new and more significant responsibilities? A recent survey shows that 69% of Millennials do not feel their employers are developing their leadership skills[2].  This puts a critical leadership pipeline at risk.

What do organizations need to do differently to generate a healthy leadership pipeline? Target leadership development to young employees much earlier in careers. By investing in these employees, organizations grow the next generation of leaders and build foundations to fill the gap. Organizations also reinforce the value of continuous learning and development. Leadership development offers opportunities to expand the perspective of employees at early stages and prompt their thinking about the kinds of strategic questions and trade-offs more senior leaders must face every day.

Beyond that, group-based leadership development for employees early in their careers has three key benefits:


Tenured employees often wish they had focused on networking earlier in their careers. Networking has many personal rewards for leaders and results in vast gains for an organization. From creating cross-functional relationships, to creating space for idea-sharing, to creating a support system of peers, the benefits of group-based leadership development training are obvious. But taking the extra step to provide these groups with a shared challenge in the form of a business simulation, case study, or presentation can strengthen these bonds and networks among leaders and even create a sense of organizational belonging.


Access to Senior Leaders

Group-based leadership development training for early-career employees also accelerates the stewardship of organizational culture and joins more junior employees with senior leaders. An effective and engaging way to build these connections is through story-sharing and exposing junior talent to senior leaders who have examples of both successes and setbacks at the organization. By attending a leadership development training session for merely an hour, a senior leader has the opportunity to impact newcomers by shaping their thinking about the business. This also presents an opportunity for leaders, both new and tenured, to share their thoughts and perspective on future opportunities with the organization.

Another benefit of gathering more junior employees is the ability to launch and communicate new initiatives with people at the lowest levels of an organization. When new initiatives are launched, the cascade effect from the top of the organization to the bottom is often imperfect. But when gathering a group of early-career employees, leaders can precisely communicate — from the top down and the bottom up — key messages about new projects, new products, and new organizational initiatives.



Finally, making the investment in early-career leadership development builds a strong leadership foundation from which to build a career. Here are a few key areas early career employees can, and should, practice in early career leadership training to jumpstart their careers and effectiveness:


Effective communication is imperative for individual and organizational success. Ensuring that key communications have specificity, context, an appropriate tone, and actionable next steps is a simple idea, but it is a necessary one for junior employees to practice.


Time is scarce at all levels of an organization. Teaching early-career employees how to maximize their time and think intentionally and critically about time management can pay dividends for the organization, both now and in the future. We all need reminders about devoting our time to proactive planning and focusing on activities that are important, but not yet urgent. These types of discussions with junior employees arm them with tools they can employ in spending their time wisely.

Practice Leading a Team

Finally, providing employees early in their careers a challenge in which they must lead a team and deliver results, creates a practice field for making leadership choices and learning from leadership missteps. By elevating the roles of these early-career employees in a fictionalized setting, they will gain experience coaching and developing others, leading change, and setting priorities for a team — all in a safe and comfortable learning environment.


Leadership development for early-career employees matters. It builds the leadership pipeline necessary for any organization, while simultaneously upskilling employees at all levels to deliver results now and in the years to come. According to a 2018 study, 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if that company invested in their careers[3]. Investing in early-career leadership development creates a culture of continued learning and prepares organizations and future leaders for what is to come.

Interested in a leadership development program for early career employees? Click here.

Not ready for a full program but want to send a promising early-career employee to an asynchronous training program? Click here.





Krista Campbell
Krista Campbell
Krista Campbell is a Senior Associate Consultant at Insight Experience, a Boston-based firm delivering contextually rich business simulations and learning experiences to accelerate and integrate leadership, business acumen and strategy execution.