Struggle to find leaders looms large, new workplace leadership survey reveals

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Written on 7 April 2015 in News
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The Global Workforce Leadership Survey captured the gap between priorities and expectations of HR leaders around the world and the workers they employ. Overall, the findings show that the biggest issues for powering future business growth in the changing economy are the differences in perspective around leadership, development and accessible online tools for ongoing development and collaboration

HR executives are struggling to find the right candidates to fill senior leadership roles, according to a new study.

Research from Saba, a global talent management solutions provider, has found that leadership is the hardest skill to find among employees.

The Global Workforce Leadership Survey captured the gap between priorities and expectations of HR leaders around the world and the workers they employ. Overall, the findings show that the biggest issues for powering future business growth in the changing economy are the differences in perspective around leadership, development and accessible online tools for ongoing development and collaboration.

With about four million baby boomers retiring every year, companies worldwide are seeing a growing talent gap at the executive level. In fact, 30 per cent of HR executives polled said they were struggling to find candidates to fill senior leadership roles. Fifty-nine percent of companies polled agreed that succession planning is more challenging in today's economy.

Unfortunately, their efforts in developing the next generation of leaders are missing the mark. Nearly half (46 per cent) of companies said leadership was the skill hardest to find in employees and only 36 per cent of employees listed leadership as a strength in their organisations.

Of the companies polled, 39 per cent offer leadership development programmes but only 15 per cent of employees feel the training they receive is preparing them for the next position.

“What’s concerning here is that, quite literally, the future leadership at some critical global organisations is at risk,” said Emily He, chief marketing officer of Saba. “There’s more at play than the retirement of baby boomers; the fundamental approaches businesses take to find, develop and inspire leaders—at all levels—need to change.”

Recent studies show that a majority of workers – 68 per cent according to a US Harris/Saba survey – see themselves as leaders. In contrast, when it comes to sourcing the top ranks in the business, the picture becomes grim. Less than half (47 per cent) of HR leaders said that they have an adequate pool of talent to fill new roles in their company. And a frightening amount of employees are not interested in the corner office, with only 11 per cent polled aspiring to C-level positions. And of that small amount, there is a striking gender and generational divide. Only 36 per cent of women versus 64 per cent of men aspire to be C-level executives in their organisation.

Just 31 percent of younger millennial employees want the top spots, versus 38 percent of the older, generation X group.

“Individuals are embracing leadership by virtue of their actions and their impact. Experience trumps title,” added He. “So companies in turn need to redefine what they mean by leadership beyond job descriptions and begin to see the network impacts their future leaders are driving toward.”

The research also revealed that employees are looking for personalised career direction at every stage. In fact, most employees are looking for quarterly or weekly feedback and access to development wherever they are. And they expect content, contacts and courses offered at work in the same style they consume personalised content at home through Amazon and Netflix. The findings show a stark contrast in reality.

Only about half (52 per cent) of companies conduct annual performance reviews at a minimum. Companies are still using spreadsheets (58 percent) as their primary way to track performance metrics. Less than a quarter of businesses worldwide are using advanced technology for insights into their people and effectiveness of their talent programmes. Just 23 per cent are using big data and metrics visualisation and 21 per cent tap the predictive analytics potential of machine learning today.

“The bottom line is that companies need to rethink their talent management and employee engagement strategies,” said Dan Schawbel, Founder of WorkplaceTrends.com. “Personalised employee career development programmes, accessible tools and tracking systems and a focus on redefining and re-engaging leadership – at all levels – will help deliver on the innovation and growth that businesses require.”

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