minding-the-leadership-talent-gap

Posted by Paul Daley - Director, APAC
APAC talent management
Posted on July 10th, 2012 at 10:00 am

Minding the leadership talent gap

Previously I talked about the potential of a ticking talent time bomb in China. This month we’ll focus specifically on the leadership talent challenges in high growth, emerging markets (particularly those across the Asia region) and what successful organisations are doing to address it.

PWC recently released their 15th Annual Global CEO Survey. Whilst it’s a fascinating insight into the perspectives of CEOs, the section on talent set alarm bells ringing. CEOs were asked to cite which of the following groups currently face the greatest challenges with regards to recruitment and retention. The graph below represents their responses.

Whilst we can see that identifying high potential middle managers remains one of the largest challenges overall (which has been well documented in previous studies), the gap around the senior management teams in developed vs. emerging markets was particularly stark.

Put together, high growth markets in Asia such as China and India face a triple leadership challenge:

  • Weak senior management teams
  • High attrition of their most capable individuals (being enticed for the next pay rise and better title)
  • A poor pipeline of potentials to replace them

So, what are businesses doing to over come this? From my various conversations with business leaders in the region, the organisations that are having most success appear, at least anecdotally, to have the following in common.

Tackling the leadership challenge

1) Start with the end in mind

Successful organisations invest time in strategic workforce planning; understanding and acting on the link between business plans (or potential scenarios) and leadership / talent demand. They understood what was likely to ‘hit’ them and had taken appropriate steps to act.

In some cases this was relatively straightforward, such as having two successors identified for each ‘top 200’ role. For others this involved more covert planning, such as researching leadership capability in potential organisations that could be acquired overtly to access the capability of their people.

2) Define high performance

The successful organisations had a clear view on what high performance looks like both now, and in the future. More specifically they had identified the values and behaviours that would transcend the organisation and enable people in those roles to be agile enough to evolve to future realities.

The best were also creating opportunities to validate the transferability of a future leaders perceived high performance across the organisation. (We have all seen examples where an individuals capability in retrospect was context dependent. I.e. they were successful in one role but failed miserably when in a different role or under the direction of a new leader.)

This was being achieved by creating opportunities to move to new roles regularly or project and secondment opportunities. Not only did this create the high performance validation opportunity, but also offered further development and engagement for the future leader.

3) Act today to be ready for tomorrow

With almost no exception, the successful organisations were very focussed on talent pipelining. Whilst this included the traditional internal leadership development programmes, many were also investing heavily in identifying and engaging potential external pools of talent.

Whilst this has been a trend globally in recent years, those organisations in high growth, emerging markets were dedicating whole teams and partnering with professional organisations to help convert the latent external pool into an engaged pipeline of future leaders. They were also expending significant effort in aligning the organisation to a ‘culture of recruiting’, where all managers are expected to proactively build nurturing relationships with future leaders, much the same way as the sales and marketing teams would with potential customers.

The most enlightened leaders also recognised that having strong engagement with your potential future leaders could be a source of competitive advantage. In the words of Marijn Dekkers, Chairman of Bayer AG from the PWC CEO survey:

“What is changing is that among Western companies, the ability to hire, develop and retain talent in developing economies has become a major point of competitive differentiation.”

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