Training the top performers and superstars at any company is a given. And then there's everyone else. Do bottom-feeders also need special...

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Training the top performers and superstars at any company is a given.

And then there’s everyone else. Do bottom-feeders also need special encouragement and development? “It’s absolutely critical to develop the senior leadership team,” said Donald Ruse, partner and senior vice president of New York-based Sibson Consulting, a global human-resources consulting division of The Segal Co.

“But many companies know they also need to take a look at developing leaders from the bottom up.”

A critical first step for employers, according to the consultant, is to analyze their businesses to ascertain which employees are going to be essential — regardless of their status or title.

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“It’s important to identify what segments of the work force are going to be most critical in achieving strategic goals, and that means from entry-level workers on up,” Ruse said.

The consultant has been working with an engineering company to determine its critical talent.

“If they don’t do this, it could have an impact of several hundred million dollars a year,” he said. “What they need most are not senior executives, but seasoned engineers — and you can’t buy them off the street. You have to develop them.”

Ruse says he has always known the importance of development of all levels of workers — and has benefited from working for companies that share that philosophy.

“I spent 12 years working for corporations, from 1983, when I graduated from college, to 1995,” Ruse said. “I had decided only to work for companies that would develop me, and I was developed from the day I walked in on my first job with an international company.”

He was hired as a personnel manager, and “first off, they did a complete assessment of me in terms of my knowledge, skills and abilities as compared to what they needed for their business. I was an entry-level manager and they wanted to see what I had and needed to execute their business strategy.”

Ruse needed development in technical knowledge and management capabilities. And he got it: He learned how to manage change and design an organization to improve productivity.

Ruse took a lateral job at another international company to fill in some experience he knew he needed and stayed three years.

“I took control and made sure the work I did and the jobs I had would develop me every step of the way.”

He emerged as a senior employee-relations adviser — still not top tier. In his next job he got to a senior-management level, but not senior executive. In 1995 he went to Sibson, where he says he still gets “developed every day. I’m now at the top level and one of the partners in the firm.”

Ruse emphasizes that employers would be wise “to look beyond the superstars and not forget you have a large population of people who produce for you day in and day out.”

At every level.

E-mail questions to Carol Kleiman at Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.