Putting Effective Leaders in Place Now Seen As Urgent Priority

October 29, 2015 – While the need for innovation and driving strategic change is critical to today’s executives, few believe they have the right leaders in place to effectively deliver on strategy, according to a study released by Korn Ferry. The report, “Real World Leadership,” which polled more than 7,500 executives from 107 countries, found that executives’ top leadership development priority was developing leaders who can drive strategic change.

Of those polled, only 17 percent were fully confident their organizations had the right leadership capabilities in place to execute on strategic business priorities. Just over half of the respondents (56 percent) said they were ‘somewhat confident,’ while more than a quarter (27 percent) were either unsure or did not believe their teams had the necessary leadership capabilities.

“If I were a CEO, being only ‘somewhat confident’ that I had the right leaders in place to drive my company’s strategy wouldn’t be good enough,” said Stu Crandell, senior vice president, Korn Ferry Institute. “That’s why effective leadership development is extremely critical to the success of any organization. It’s required to address the skill, pipeline, and culture gaps required for organizational growth, yet it’s one of the CEO’s most underutilized levers to drive strategy.”

According to a number of recent studies, companies have said they are generally not comfortable with the leaders they have in place, and reports continue to point to talent shortages possibly as a result.

The latest ‘Recruiter Nation Survey’ released by Jobvite found that 56 percent of recruiters are citing the lack of available skilled talent as a key stumbling block in hiring. The report, which polled over 1,400 executive recruiting and human resources professionals, also found that 95 percent of recruiters anticipate equal or increased competition for talent over the next year.

ManpowerGroup’s recent Talent Shortage Survey found similar results with 32 percent of U.S. employers reporting difficulties filling job vacancies due to talent shortages. Globally, the study found that the percentage of employers experiencing difficulties continues to rise, increasing from 36 percent in 2014 to 38 percent in 2015.

“Recruiters need to get creative and take a multipronged approach using social media, insights gleaned from analytics, and mobile tools, while engaging the entire organization to help find and hire top talent,” said Dan Finnigan, CEO of Jobvite. “That’s how winning companies will stay one step ahead in this competitive career landscape.”

“Talent shortages are real and are not going away,” said Kip Wright, SVP, Manpower North America. “As the struggle to find the right talent continues, and candidates with in-demand skills get the upper hand, employers will be under pressure to position themselves as ‘talent destinations’ to attract the best workers that will drive their business forward.”


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When asked to rank the most pressing strategic business priorities in their organizations, accelerating the pace of innovation was one of the top three answers in the Korn Ferry study, nearly tying with improving profitability and increasing organic marketshare.

“Innovation, change and agility are key catalysts for organizational growth,” said Noah Rabinowitz, senior partner and global head of Korn Ferry’s leadership development practice. “Today’s best leadership development programs focus on helping leaders to innovate and navigate uncertainty to come out ahead.”

Interestingly, the “Real World Leadership” study found a significant lack of executive satisfaction with leadership development programs. Study respondents said that if they could, they would discard nearly half (48 percent) of their leadership development approach. In a similar vein, 55 percent of survey respondents judged their leadership development spending return on investment to be only fair, poor or very poor.

“Many leadership development initiatives fail because they are simply a series of programs instead of a comprehensive approach that ties directly back into the business strategy,” said Mr. Crandell. “We not only focus on the whole person (competencies, experiences, traits and drivers), but also leverage real strategic goals and applicable, on-the-job challenges to augment the relevance and impact of the development journey for individuals, their teams, and organizations.”

The study also found that executives may be their own biggest barrier to achieving leadership development success. Respondents cited a lack of executive sponsorship as the largest barrier to successful implementation of leadership development programs.

Furthermore, below the senior executive level, there is a significant lack of engagement in driving strategic change. Nearly half (46 percent) of mid-level leaders and 41 percent of high-potential leaders are not active in driving change.

“Connection to the organization’s mission is getting lost at various levels of the workforce. Without organization-wide engagement, strategic change initiatives will not fully succeed, nor will any critical business initiatives,” said Mr. Rabinowitz. “That’s where leadership development comes in. It has to be real, relevant and consistent through time and across the organization.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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