Posted by Paul Daley - Director, APAC
APAC talent management
Posted on November 19th, 2012 at 11:53 am

Where are all the international leaders in Asia? Part 3

As we’ve mentioned in previous instalments of this blog, Asia does not have enough experienced international and global business leaders.

In this final part of the blog exploring how leading organisations have addressed the leadership talent gap in Asia, we’ll discover how the best organisations are looking to integrate both the development and acquisition of leadership talent in a strategic way. Here are the top three practices those transformational organisations that have successfully started to address the leadership talent gap have in common.

A strategic workforce plan

Much has been written about strategic workforce planning and we’ve discussed it in previous blogs.

Having a clear strategic workforce plan is a challenge, especially in highly volatile and complex environments. However transformational organisations are widening the focus of the workforce planning lens and rather than emphasising succession and ‘bench strength’ around specific roles, they are concentrating on understanding the broad leadership capabilities required by the business both now and in the future.

The change in focus means all potential leaders from all functions, business units and geographies are encompassed. Whilst this approach does result in waste (inevitably, some leaders lack the specific skills required or are pipelined against a capability that doesn’t arise in the time in which they are ready to move) it was clear that planning and prevention led to better outcomes than reactive cures and sticky plasters. Take for example a leading Asian FMCG business that managed to switch leadership hiring from 80% external to 70% internal in three years by adopting this approach.

Integration of ‘build’ and ‘buy’ options

Historically, leadership development strategies (often referred to as the ‘build’ option of workforce development) and leadership talent acquisition strategies (often referred to as the ‘buy’ option) have been treated as distinct tools, frequently considered in siloes. If you needed convincing of this fact, look at how many organisations historically segregated the leadership development function from the talent acquisition function in HR teams; usually as a result of slavish implementation of the ‘Ulrich’ model.

In more recent times however those leading organisations have recognised the importance of integrating both build and buy options together. This has not only been witnessed by the increasing trend towards the integration of acquisition and development HR roles but also the sophistication of the discussion around leadership succession planning. That is; considering the multitude of build and buys computations, using in depth workforce analytics on performance and inclusion of external bench strength to arrive at succession decisions.

Redesigning the organisation around a leadership succession imperative

Another trend of those organisations that are cracking the leadership gap is how they use organisational design principles to create leadership development opportunity. In the most part, organisations have historically designed their business (almost exclusively) around customers’ needs. This resulted in classical management practices such as ‘delayering’ and the creation of flat organisations becoming in vogue with the primary goal being about agility and responsiveness to the customer.

This however led to career paths being restricted and future leaders facing limited opportunities to develop and grow within the organisation.

Whilst customer need is absolutely the right thing to prioritise in OD decisions, the leading organisations also understand how design considerations can influence and benefit opportunities for leaders. For example, a leading pharma business has redefined its structure to a stronger country ownership model from a regional model.

Whilst this was in part about creating alignment to specific customer country needs,  it also served to flatten and widen the succession pool to regional and global leadership positions. An organisation with only five regional leaders with strong generalist experience that could be considered likely successors has (in simplified terms) been broadened to a potential pool of over 120.

Interested in discussing this further? On the 5th December Hong Kong will play host to Ochre House’s latest think tank: Rethinking the leadership talent gap in Asia.  If you are a senior HR or business leader looking to share ideas and gain leading edge thinking around this topic, please click here for more information about attending the event

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