Are organisations doing enough to nurture key business leaders

Are organisations doing enough to nurture key leaders?

New research reveals that a large number of business leaders believe their organisation could be doing more to support them in their quest to reach targets and ultimately achieve their career goals.

So the real question is, what are you doing to help such individuals reach the top?

As we all know, an effective human resource leader must spend ample time in ensuring that they are offering opportunities to employees in order for them to further develop their expertise and experience.

Unfortunately, those at the highest level of a company often get overlooked in receiving such guidance to achieve their career goals.

It is often assumed that the majority of our most successful and established leaders have already achieved what they wished for in their business careers.

However, the latest research from Egon Zehnder makes for interesting reading, with findings showing that executives still crave the opportunity for further progression, with many believing that they are restricted by their organisations in doing so.

The latest study by Egon Zehnder, titled ‘What Makes You Thrive’ targeted over 1,000 senior executives from across the globe, including Asia, Australasia, Europe and South America.

When participants were asked to describe their feelings as to whether their organisations contributed to them reaching their professional potential, a perhaps surprising 40% replied in a positive manner, while 36% stated the opposite and a further 27% had no opinion either way.

However, more poignantly, 72% of those questioned were quick to affirm their belief that they would certainly welcome extra guidance from their companies in helping them to both establish and reach their goals.

Such findings appeared to come as little surprise to author Wolfhart Pentz, who is forthcoming in his belief that executives more than have a part to play in their own development.

However, Pentz also believes that business leaders can on occasion fail to vocalise their thoughts and ambitions to warrant such support.

Pentz stated “It’s what we see every day,” as the man who is at the forefront of Egon Zehnder’s leadership services practice in Berlin, Germany analysed the results.

He continues to state that “Leaders are aware of their values and their sources of meaning and motivation. Still, they often don’t pay enough attention to them.

With employees who show signs of having high potential, HR leaders often “foster a sense of self-responsibility for their own development, which is great,” he adds.

But some leaders of the older generation have never had a chance to develop that kind of self-responsibility and tend to wait for HR or somebody else to talk to them.

In many instances, executives may simply not have the time, or think they don’t have the time, to tend to their own development needs”, says Pentz.

It’s like doing a short relaxation exercise. We all know how useful it is, and that we will be more effective and efficient afterward,” he continues. “But we still don’t do it, because we feel we don’t have time for the shortcut.

Meanwhile, Director of talent and Rewards at Willis Towers Watson, Marie Holmstrom, believes that from an organisational standpoint, shortcomings in this area may in some cases be a product of their own progress in terms of talent management.

Holmstrom develops her argument further by adding that “With the advancement of talent management practices in recent years, employees at all levels are expecting the organization to be doing the hard work necessary to understand the unique capabilities and aspirations of their people.

HR and leaders can get caught in talking a good game, with the plethora of talent assessment, talent review sessions and succession planning work done on an annual basis.

If, however, the organisation’s talent management processes don’t result in understanding how employees, up to and including senior leadership, want to add value, “then all is for naught,” she continues.

Time is wasted and your ‘rich’ process will do more harm than good. Expectations will be raised but go unmet. And key talent will feel passed over and ignored, and will become disinterested and bored.

At best, they’ll decide to leave for an employer that is authentically interested in stretching and nurturing their full potential. Assuming, but not verifying, what you know a leader is capable of, ready for or willing to take on, is dangerous.

Deborah Lovich, leader of the Boston Consulting Group’s Leadership and Talent Enablement Centre gave her opinion on the matter by stating that “Some companies’ leadership development efforts may also suffer from taking the form of one-off interventions.

By definition, such an approach “cannot address personal motivations and goals,” says Lovich, “which need to be addressed and reinforced in ‘everyday work.’ ”

Lovich echoes the sentiments of Pentz, adding that leaders must strive to “take an active role in professional growth conversations and the ensuing development to realize the results they’re looking for.

As HR leaders are growing progressively more conscious of the potential still waiting to be nurtured within their organisations, very few have regular conversations with their top leaders.

Furthermore, when such conversations do occur, they tend to be “rather technical in nature,” and have a specific focus upon potential career moves or relocations, and as a result are “less meaning-driven.”

Lovich has urged those working within HR to firstly initiate such talks, and then to work alongside leaders to produce robust development initiatives to work upon.

This is as opposed to what Lovich describes as “off-to-the-side ‘programs’ or check-the-box development conversations that are not connected to a deeper conversation about the leaders’ personal and professional vision.”

In addition to her earlier views, Holmstrom continues to say that while HR certainly helps the process of ensuring that expectations for growing future generations of business leaders are “embedded in every people manager’s performance expectation, no process will close the gap if top leadership fails to embrace this true talent mind-set,

Chief Human Resource Officers and organisations need to “see that the fight for talent is a street fight, with an every-day focus on their leaders, what special potential they have, how they can be elevated to grow further faster, and on finding the best match between what inspires a leader [and] the contribution he or she can make to the organization,” adds Holmstrom.

HR can be, and should be, leading the charge for this critical culture shift.

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