Nurturing and Retaining High-Potential Leaders at Integral Ad Science (IAS)

As a global leader in digital ad measurement and optimization, Integral Ad Science (IAS) understands the need to drive continuous innovation in a fast-paced industry. Ahead of an initial public offering (IPO) in 2021, they sought out ways to support high-potential (HiPo) employees through the transition — and to plan for the future. 

The Challenge 

How do you transform high-potential employees into high-impact leaders? 

On the cusp of going public, IAS identified a pool of HiPo employees who demonstrated excellence in their respective roles and represented an emerging generation of potential leadership at the company. Though they had proven themselves as high-performing individual contributors, many of the HiPo group were new to people management and had not yet developed the robust leadership capabilities needed to help their teams thrive through the business transformation. 

 “These employees were marvelous in their specific areas of technical expertise, but they needed to develop a more comprehensive perspective on what it means to be a leader — and the coaching and empathetic leadership practices it entails,” explained Jon Starling, vice president of talent development and DEI at IAS. 

To cultivate these capabilities, IAS set out to implement a HiPo development program to nurture and train these new leaders. One of the company’s primary goals was to establish a strong pipeline to support succession planning, among other foundational talent objectives such as organizational resilience and adaptability. 

“We wanted to invest in and develop individuals with the potential to truly make an impact in the organization, and prepare them for whatever comes next,” said Starling. 

The Solution 

ExecOnline worked hand in hand with IAS to design a customized HiPo development program to meet their needs and goals. 

ExecOnline was an attractive partner because of their relationships with top business schools and faculty, as well as their focus on both training and coaching HiPos. What’s more, many of IAS’s core values — like a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and a holistic approach to leadership development — aligned with ExecOnline’s mission and solutions. 

ExecOnline was already a trusted leadership development partner to IAS when the company was getting ready to go public. In preparation for this major transition, IAS encouraged high-potential employees to participate in ExecOnline’s faculty-led course, Accelerating Change Readiness and Agility. The course guided participants through a four-step process:

1) Participants assessed their “Adaptive DNA,” identifying strengths such as Robustness, Resilience, Hedging, Agility, and Versatility. 

2) They identified a business challenge and made a concrete plan to use those strengths to tackle the issue at hand. 

3) Participants performed an organizational diagnosis, segmenting stakeholders to create a collaborative communication strategy. 

4) Lastly, they created a Change Readiness playbook, which laid out a comprehensive plan for instituting a change and leading their colleagues through it. 

    The employees also participated in a tailored HiPo coaching program. To further develop their leadership capabilities, IAS gathered data and feedback to pinpoint areas for improvement with each person. ExecOnline then worked with IAS to pair each employee with a certified coach whose career expertise matched their goals and development needs. 

    The Impact 

    The combination of faculty-led learning and personalized coaching led to tangible results for IAS leaders. 

    IAS retained more than 95% of the employees who completed the HiPo development program, and they promoted about 50% of people in that group to higher-level positions. IAS also measured a 20% increase in self-reported engagement among program participants. These results were especially meaningful to IAS as a newly public company prioritizing succession planning. 

    ExecOnline’s Accelerating Change Readiness & Agility program also provided IAS leaders with iterative resources they could continue using to meet future challenges. After completing the program, for example, one participant moved into a new role. While navigating the transition, she utilized a go-to-market template provided in the course to further develop her leadership competencies. 

    “ExecOnline’s solution helped us meet the exact goals we set to achieve. Most of the high-potential employees who completed the program have also been put into a succession plan, so we know where they can go next. For a newly public company, that’s very exciting,” said Starling. 

    The Takeaway 

    HiPo programs yield real-world results. HiPo programs are a high-impact way to retain top employees while strengthening the talent and succession pipeline at every level of leadership. Learn more about ExecOnline’s approach to developing high-potential employees into high-impact leaders through flexible online learning and coaching solutions.

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