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Want To Progress Top Talent? Here’s What Intel Does

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This blog was posted on behalf of Dani Napier Harrison. Dani is the Director of the Leadership Pipeline Programs at Intel and is passionate about caring for and developing people.

Intel’s leadership development programs puts high performers at the center of the action, matching them with critical assignments across the company and enabling more rapid personal growth. These assignments – both rotation and team-based opportunities – along with an executive network and leadership curriculum, have proven to be quite successful in producing senior leaders. There are two premier programs within Intel   – one in which is comprised of three, eight month rotations, and another – a twelve to twenty four month team based assignment focused on new product development. Through our experience within these programs, we have identified five essential elements that make Intel’s leadership pipeline programs successful:

  1. Set standards to identify talent: We seek individuals both internally or externally, who demonstrate the ability, aspiration, and commitment to lead. Whether mid-level or senior, engineering or business, these individuals are typically top performers who produce results and drive change, value working across business units, put Intel first, and seek out opportunities that allow them to gain new skills and experiences. Regardless of their positions or trajectories, we evaluate all candidates against the same set of standards. But identifying talent can’t just be a tops-down process led by managers and HR leaders. It’s important to build recruiting structures that allow candidates to self-identify or opt-in, which helps uncover those employees who may be hidden in large organizations, or blocked or overlooked by managers.


  1. Timely development: Leadership development programs supplements the participants’ assignments with curriculum, networking opportunities, and career coaching, but it’s important to pin point then to offer these development services. Each year, we deliver a week long orientation to new cohort members that’s designed to provide them with baseline knowledge of the company, an understanding of Intel’s strategic initiatives, networking opportunities with the community, and opportunities to connect with our senior leaders.  Within our team based program, we’ve created a process that allows any employee to opt-in and incubate their product idea for a short period of time, we introduce design thinking and business model canvas sessions early on to ensure the proof of concepts provide equal weight to users, technical, and business requirements.  As the program progresses we introduce courses to develop their story telling, influencing, and negotiating capabilities.  Additionally, every employee is offered a personal assessment, development plan, and matched with a certified coach to ensure his or her strengths are leveraged and development areas are refined throughout the tenure of the program.


  1. Create leaders by creating owners: Strong leadership programs should be built around providing top talent stretch assignments with varying levels of complexity and ambiguity. We encourage our talent to lead from their seat by giving them the freedom to explore new opportunities and be accountable for hard decisions. The byproduct of which is a more engaged leader within the company.  Our team based program is built to allow employees to develop their own product ideas.  We ask that they align to Intel’s big bets, but the rest is up to them.  Congruently, employees in the rotation program are able to select their rotation based on Intel’s needs and where employees think they can be of most impact.  There are no limitations on the types of roles they can explore and the participants are positioned to manage high impact projects and execute independently.  We have also found that these opportunities draw in a more diverse population.

  2. Progression and Investment Management: How can we ensure that a leadership program is money well-spent? Do we measure success of a program by the acceleration of its participants? Or by their business impact? The short answer is both. When measuring return on investment, we have learned that taking a holistic approach is best. We track employee performance through promotions, stock level grants (a form of compensation that varies based on performance), and retention rates. Concurrently, we collect reviews from our senior leaders to assess employee impact within the business. Examining metrics year over year combined with feedback from our senior management, allows us to see leadership program participants consistently performing at a high level.  We’ve found monitoring employees post program is crucial to continued return and investment.  We are in the process of developing a new system to manage our alumni performance and aspiration data.  Our intent is to align those we’ve invested in with Intel’s critical leadership talent needs.


  1. Resource and support: Intel’s leadership development programs are staffed to provide programmatic support for overseeing talent identification, development services and progression management. Because we emphasize leading by doing and caring, participants are active contributors into all functional areas of the program.  We also aim to keep employees’ compensation aligned with performance and the kind of work they perform.  As an organization, it’s important to be conscious of the value these individuals provide.  These employees are typically working in high pressure critical assignments that move through different business units, which can be a challenge.  Employees who are successful should be compensated accordingly.

When considering how your firm is developing its leaders, your investment in the pipeline should be as well.  It has taken Intel ten years to be able to produce these results. Our formula for identification and development, along with assessment of value and connecting to our executive pipeline, has created a diverse channel of up and coming leaders.
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