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Bersin & Associates defines a stretch assignment as a project or task given to employees which is beyond their current knowledge or skills level in order to “stretch” employees developmentally. The stretch assignment challenges employees by placing them into uncomfortable situations in order to learn and grow.
Three benefits of stretch assignments are:
While the benefits of stretch assignments are obvious, few organizations exploit this leadership development opportunity to the fullest due to a variety of challenges. While scalability and leadership support are among those roadblocks, the largest challenge appears to be simply connecting leadership candidates with opportunities. As many have experienced, it can be an onerous enough task to simply manage the opportunities available without adding the complexity of matching those opportunities to the leadership candidates.
Many of our clients have had success with shifting the responsibility for identifying and selecting the opportunities to the candidates themselves. The advantages to having candidates drive this process includes:
It is impossible to overestimate the potential of the right Stretch Assignment to contribute to the development of your leadership candidates. However, to ensure that potential is realized, any development opportunity (including stretch assignments) should be linked to specific competency improvements.
Defining the expected outcome before beginning a stretch assignment will serve as a way of qualifying opportunities and make it easier to measure the impact on the candidate and the organization.
Hopefully, the above will give you a better understanding of how you can easily incorporate stretch assignments into your leadership development programs. But where do you start?
Having an objective way to quantify your leadership candidates’ strengths and opportunities for development is a good place to start. This data provides a great foundation to help each candidate to:
They can then use this information to identify stretch assignments that will benefit them and their organization.