Strategic business acumen is a critical competency, but so too is the ability to inspire others to follow your lead.
In a recent survey of 450 European organisations commissioned by Halogen Software 48 per cent of organisations said that ‘building a strong leadership team’ was a primary challenge. This is against a backdrop of only one in five organisations being prepared for the departure of senior leaders.
Almost as many survey respondents saw ‘line management training’ (45 per cent) as the major issue. The reality is that 70-80 per cent of the workforce reports to a middle manager. For the vast majority of employees, middle management are the key individuals who will need to support, advise, motivate and drive staff forward in meeting the organisation’s goals. Middle managers are also the top leaders of the future and should form a vital part of an organisation’s talent pool when it comes to succession planning for leadership roles.
Three quarters of employees have a line manager or supervisor to whom they report, according to the CIPD Employee Outlook: Autumn 2015 survey findings. The survey measured employee satisfaction with senior managers across five areas of their role: consultation, respect, trust, confidence and clarity of vision. Scores have worsened across each of these areas and are approximately back to spring 2014 levels. The biggest drops in scores are for clarity of vision, confidence and consultation.
A fifth of all employees, including those at the leadership level, are currently looking for a new job with a different organisation and of those, more than a quarter (28 per cent) are looking to move jobs because they are unhappy with the leadership of their senior management team. Simply put, organisations need effective leaders at all levels — people who’ll be the example and provide the guidance and motivation required for the business to achieve its aspirations.
Communication skills are an issue in the relationship between line managers and their staff and the indications are that many line managers would not have the necessary level of communication skills to take a higher leadership role. The Employee Outlook: Autumn 2015 survey asked employees what they felt were the three most important aspects of their performance management process.
The top response was feedback/recognition (75 per cent), followed by goal setting (48 per cent) and thirdly development opportunities (47 per cent). The survey found that when it comes to opportunities for upward feedback/employee voice, only 38 per cent are satisfied with how their line manager listens and responds to them.
There is a pressing need for HR and L&D to support middle management leaders better. An effective performance management process can play a vital part in identifying and nurturing the leaders of the future, while at the same time improving the organisation’s feedback mechanism.
For example, over half (54 per cent) of employees responding to the survey who have a performance management process believe their line managers are very effective or fairly effective at communicating goals, objectives and expectations.
The survey also asked employees about whether they felt able to fulfil their career aspirations in their current organisation. Employees were fairly split on this question with a third (33 per cent) saying they were ‘very likely or likely’ to be able to further their career within the organisation and almost a third (32 per cent) saying they were ‘unlikely or very unlikely’ to be able to do so. It appears that many organisations are failing to communicate leadership development opportunities or are failing to align training explicitly with succession planning.
Across all sectors and sizes of organisation, employees are divided in their views about whether their organisations are investing in training and developing people internally to fill roles that are hard to recruit for, rather than just looking to the external labour market — 46 per cent saying this happened very often or fairly often while nearly as many, 45 per cent saying it happened not very often or not at all.
Here are three top tips to address the issues and build a strong foundation for leadership:
- Differentiate between high performance and high potential employees. The high performers who are hitting all their sales targets may not be the right people to lead large groups of employees through complex change and maintain organisation-wide motivation.
- Get your ducks in a row. Align employee goals and training with both corporate performance objectives and succession planning strategies and make sure this is transparent to the employee. This way, while filling competency gaps, training professionals can motivate employees more effectively.
- Prioritise communications development. Train managers to provide ongoing feedback and coaching as part of the learning and development of their staff. This should be in addition to formal performance reviews.
Investment in leadership development makes all the difference to the long-term success of the organisation. It is vital for organisations to identify and nurture their high potential employees and provide on-the-job and formal leadership training to develop their leadership capacity.
On a day-to-day basis, ongoing feedback has a notable impact on employee productivity and engagement. Training professionals have a key role to play in ensuring organisations have the tools and resources they need to coach the leaders of the future effectively, while engaging and retaining the high flyers of today.
About the author
Dominique Jones is Vice President of Human Resources at Halogen Software. She holds a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Certification.