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TD Magazine

Accelerating Investments on Talent

Thursday, June 15, 2023

This initiative provides talent development support to companies in emerging markets.

Private equity firm LeapFrog Investments established the Talent Accelerator in 2018 in response to the rapid economic, social, and political transformation the firm saw throughout the emerging markets in which it invests. The Talent Accelerator is a talent development initiative designed to bridge the talent gap. The initiative's success has earned LeapFrog the 2023 TD for Good Award.


The global growth markets in Africa and Asia that LeapFrog focuses on "have historically been underserved by providers in this field, so we have dedicated our practice to equipping leaders and organizations with the skills to develop, manage, and retain key talent," says Elizabeth Wallis, head of the Talent Accelerator. "In doing so, we are not only improving the standards of this sector but also helping to nurture talent and employees to seek growth in-market rather than abroad."

Since the program's inception, the Talent Accelerator team has worked with 1,800 employees from 27 companies (including those held by other investment firms) across nations such as South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia. A total of 843 individuals participated in Talent Accelerator programs in 2022, including 36 leaders in the executive and senior leadership programs.

Evolving to meet needs

The Talent Accelerator team has evolved its initial programs as LeapFrog's and participants' requirements have shifted. For example, the Talent Accelerator originally featured a 12-month leadership program for C-suite leaders and then middle managers. Today, the program lasts 18 months. Adding six months, Wallis shares, gives leaders more time for reflection and to apply what they've learned.

Further, due to the increased demand from the companies LeapFrog invests in, the Talent Accelerator team has expanded program offerings, partnering with the companies to provide talent and organization development support. The team likewise offers bespoke programs explicitly designed to meet the companies' needs.

The Talent Accelerator is based on a lean model, with limited overhead and faculty costs, to enable the companies in these markets to leverage the initiative's support. That enables participating companies to create high-performance teams, develop successors for critical roles, and support leaders to be successful in their tenure.

Three-pronged focus

Talent Accelerator works across three different workstreams.

Talent strategy. Within this workstream, the Talent Accelerator team offers HR maturity assessments to the participating companies, aligns talent strategy to organizational strategy, and focuses on talent strategy formulation. Additionally, the Talent Accelerator team can partner with companies to build effective employee value propositions and curate desired organizational cultures.

Talent bench. The team conducts rigorous talent assessments to evaluate leadership potential and competence. The process facilitates the succession management process in the organizations, which helps to build strong talent pipelines for critical roles.

Talent development. LeapFrog offers its structured leadership programs to companies in emerging markets. The Talent Accelerator team has also created in-house development programs based on specific company needs.

"Our leadership programs focus on accelerated leadership development, which is beneficial to companies for succession planning and moving talent into critical roles," Wallis explains. "In fact, many of our alumni members have been promoted to more senior-level roles, and the managing directors and CEOs have indicated that participant development throughout this program directly contributed to readiness to take on more responsibility."

To further drive home the program's success, Wallis says three Talent Accelerator graduates are under consideration for a CEO role in the next year.


Blended learning

As part of the initiative, LeapFrog's leadership programs focus on a blended learning approach centered on face-to-face, virtual, experiential, and on-the-job learning. The pandemic played a role in the decision to pursue more of a blended approach, but the organization also did its homework before rolling out the Talent Accelerator program.

"A significant amount of research went into the design of our programs before implementation. Research indicated that blended learning would be the best approach to ensure optimal learning transfer," Wallis says. "As a result of COVID, we have had to incorporate more virtual offerings to accommodate for widespread traveling limitations in the markets we work in. Feedback from our virtual cohorts has shown our ability to be agile, and adapting our material has only improved our programs."

Learners who have gone through the program have praised the approach, describing the blended learning experience as "helpful and beneficial" in their leadership journey.

More to come

The Talent Accelerator team's vision for the initiative is the sustainable transformation of talent to create more high-performing, resilient companies and, through the impact of those companies, a better society for all. Given its success, Wallis says LeapFrog hopes to extend the Talent Accelerator's reach and impact.

"We hope to offer our programs to more companies and countries across the Global South," she shares. "Talent and leadership development are critical for successful business performance, and we hope to provide essential people-related skills to more leaders in this region."

LeapFrog has a couple more goals in mind as well: introducing new programs targeting specific groups (such as programs for talent professionals) and working with other impact investment firms to access even more companies that need help bridging the talent gap the way LeapFrog has done with its own portfolio through the Talent Accelerator.

"What we provide is the first of its kind in this industry, and we are always looking to share our model with other impact investors who are looking at making a meaningful contribution to the talent field," says Wallis.

About the Author

Bobby Lewis is a writer for ATD; [email protected].

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