What should our NxG Learning & Development Program look like?

Summary: Sufia* asked us: “What roles can I have in my family enterprise? Do I have to work in the business? Can I play a part in the governance? Can I be “just” a shareholder? Can I aim to lead the Family in some sort of way?” Sufia was going through a NxG Development Program. Her questions partially from her curiosity, and partially from not really knowing what she could aim for. We can’t express how many times we have heard these same questions. They are often loaded with interest, sometimes self-doubt and, mostly, a desire for approval. Another set of questions we hear very often is: “How do we prepare the next generation to thrive? How can we increase their chances of being successful?”. Those are often full of hope, uncertainty, and a wish to do what is best for the next generation. Leading business families develop programs to help the next generation become both good owners and potential future leaders. In this Knowledge Snapshot, we will explore the different ways NxG Learning & Development Programs can be designed, and the approaches, focuses and tools that families can use to do so.

The most common way to frame and start developing a NxG Learning & Development Program is to think about target audience and development scope.

When thinking of target audience, age cohorts and stages of life are often considered. Although we have seen families working with kids as young as 5 years old, the most common age group to start introducing the next generation to these programs is early teens: 11-14 years old. The age group can go up to over 50 years old, as the younger generation is being prepared to assume the most senior roles in the business. The challenges faced with each age group and lifecycle vary, as do interests and appropriate learning/teaching methods. This can appear quite challenging to manage but can be fairly straightforward and simple to tackle with the right approach.

Development scope is trickier as it defines which stages of life the program will focus on and what is important to the family.

Key questions to ask yourself when assessing development scope include:

Once the questions above are answered, ideally there should be a match between age cohorts and development focus. An example of which topics a family approached with different age groups can be seen below:

What does a comprehensive NxG Learning & Development Program look like at various stages of life?

One way to develop a comprehensive NxG Learning & Development Program involves considering roles first, followed by the corresponding skills for them, development paths, and ultimately, personal development plans.

As mentioned above, different roles that can be supported by the development program may include responsible citizen, engaged shareholder, governance leader, business employee/leader, board member, CEO, chairperson, etc. It is up to each family to decide which roles are the most important for their own development program.

Depending on the specific role, a distinct set of skills will be necessary. For instance, an engaged shareholder may require proficiencies in areas such as business ownership, competencies in family business principles and practices, familiarity with the family business’s assets, comprehension of the family history and values, and the cultivation of essential personal leadership abilities.

Knowing what skills that need to be put in place may allow for different paths of development to be designed and offered. They may include collective training, external education, internships, part- or full-time jobs, consulting projects, coaching, counseling, and other different options.

Last but not least, personal development plans can be tailored individually to account for age, stage of life, target role, learning preferences, etc.

How does this translate into your Learning and Development Plan?

With Sufia, that is exactly what was done. She is part of a coaching program designed by her family, focusing on family members starting from university age up until senior management roles. Alongside collective training, she is actively equipping herself to become a senior leader in Finance, all the while upholding her duties as a responsible citizen. In the future, she aspires to be a loving wife and mother. Currently, she is in the initial stages of this journey, navigating her early years in her profession and concentrating on advancing her career.

If we break this down for Sufia:

How do you measure success?

“These all make sense but how do we track whether it is working?” Samir* asked. As any successful business person would be, he was interested in learning if this investment would pay off and the final objective of preparing capable future leaders would be reached, which is a very fair and necessary projection to be curious about. We are what we measure, so having goals in place is helpful in not only tracking progress, but also guiding the program in the first place.

In order to set these goals, we advise you to use these SMART goal guidelines: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Goals should be created for the collective group as a whole as well as individually. Some of these may be process oriented goals (e.g. reviews of the program by participants) while others may be oriented towards the final goal or product (e.g. at least x candidates for each key leadership role). The objective is to set a well thought out set of specific goals, that can be tracked and measured, in order to keep the learning and development program making progress.

Examples of collective goals:

For individuals, development plans should include key performance indicators to track success, as seen in Sufia’s example. They should also be SMART and can focus on process (e.g., deploying all activities on the Development Plan) or on a final goal (e.g. having an assessment improved from A to B or being promoted to X position).

It is important to note that collective goals for a development program may be different for each family. Therefore, establishing a group of individuals, organized in a Council, Committee or Taskforce to discuss and identify the right goals is necessary. Ideally, this group should take responsibility for designing and deploying the program, as well as keeping track of progress on goals.

It is crucial to acknowledge that results although imminent, will not materialize overnight. A NxG Learning & Development Program is a long-term endeavor which requires constant planning, execution, monitoring and adjusting. But when executed effectively, it can become one of the most rewarding investments for any family business.

*Names in this document have been changed for privacy and confidentiality.

Originally published by Family Business Council-Gulf, June 2023.