Recognising the need for a sustainable pipeline of leadership talent after a merger, the Victorian Department of Transport and Planning engineered a transformative program to empower its future leaders.
In today’s fiercely competitive talent landscape, organisations face the constant challenge of building a sustainable supply of top talent to fill key leadership positions.
According to LinkedIn’s latest Global Talent Trends report, while internal mobility is on the rise in some industries, Australian employees are still more likely to consider leaving their company than to look for an internal move.
Although external hires offer fresh perspectives, nurturing internal leadership talent remains a strategic necessity to retain organisational knowledge and promote a culture of growth. This is especially true after a period of organisational transformation, where legacy knowledge is crucial in shaping the required leadership dynamics.
The Victorian Department of Transport and Planning (DTP), which was formed in 2019 as an amalgamation of three separate transport departments, recognised the need for an internal talent pipeline to navigate its triple merger.
To tackle this challenge, its people and culture team implemented the Accelerate Your Leadership program, a transformative initiative that has yielded remarkable results in enhancing leadership capabilities and promoting internal mobility.
“Now more than ever, leaders are being challenged to navigate complexity, ambiguity and facilitate collaboration across boundaries, to deliver integrated solutions that address complex transport and land use issues,” says Antoinette Battista, Executive Director of People and Culture at DTP.
“At the Department of Transport and Planning, we’re committed to developing our people – and we know that leadership is one of the strongest drivers of performance and culture.”
Thanks to the success of the program, the team was awarded AHRI’s 2022 Leadership Development Award for its innovative approach to leadership development.
A framework to boost internal mobility
After the consolidation of three workforces to form the current DTP, it became evident that a pattern was emerging where external talent was frequently being considered for senior management and executive roles.
Considering how they could bolster internal mobility, the team identified the need to foster stronger relationships between managers and executives, resulting in improved confidence and promotability. The desired outcome was for managers to be empowered to lead their teams through challenges with confidence and skill.
This became the basis for the Accelerate Your Leadership program, which was introduced in 2020.
“Now more than ever, leaders are being challenged to navigate complexity, ambiguity and facilitate collaboration across boundaries.” – Antoinette Battista, Executive Director of People and Culture at the Victorian Department of Transport and Planning
Based on feedback from key stakeholders and research into relevant trends, the team identified the key requirements of a leader at the organisation, including the ability to lead hybrid teams, understand and leverage technology, value and capitalise on diversity and influence constructively at all levels.
The program, spanning six months, encompasses workshops, personalised coaching sessions and application-based tasks to help cultivate these skills. It emphasies practical leadership frameworks, peer learning and self-reflection.
The application tasks are designed to help participants translate theory into practice. For instance, the Performance Leadership module requires participants to identify and implement performance feedback loops, fostering hands-on leadership enhancement.
Crucial to the program’s success was the focus on manager sponsorship. During the nomination process for the program, managers are asked to endorse the participant, and are then required to provide on-the-job coaching, 360-degree feedback and attendance during key program touch points. This collaboration not only ensures the application of learned principles but also strengthens the managerial relationship.
This strategy has been well-received by staff, with 93 per cent of participants reporting that the program enhanced their relationship with their manager.
For organisations looking to implement a similar initiative, the DTP stresses that impact measurement is key. Robust evaluation can provide evidence for ongoing support and funding, strengthening internal talent pipelines and empowering talent to rise through the ranks.
Since the program was launched three years ago, the team has demonstrated its efficacy through continuous research and feedback from participants and facilitators. The findings have been impressive, with 22 per cent of participants achieving a promotion since completing the program and 72 per cent of graduates confirming the program increased their confidence and capacity to be ready for promotion.
An initiative like this cannot be a ‘set and forget’ project; leadership programs must continually be fine-tuned to align with changing industry trends, organisational transformation and our evolving ways of working.
“Our purpose is to deliver and achieve safe, sustainable and integrated transport and land use outcomes for Victoria,” she says. “And we will achieve this by building our culture and capabilities to deliver on our purpose.”