I am hard-pressed to make sense of the hesitation organizations have for building stronger leadership pipelines. In a recent Bersin by Deloitte study, organizations cited leadership as one of the most important challenges, yet only 6 percent are confident their organization is “ready” to make a change. Here is where I struggle: If we say leadership development is important, then why aren’t more companies taking initiative? The real answer is that many companies confine leadership to the “exclusive” few, failing to make long-term investments and neglecting to construct a larger leadership pipeline at all levels.
Leadership for the few
As more millennials take center stage, organizations will be forced to confront the increasing skills gaps, unless they make a conscious effort now to build leadership at all levels. The Bersin by Deloitte study shows that just 6 percent of respondents report having “excellent” programs in place to develop millennials, despite the fact that 53 percent of millennials aspire to become the leader or senior executive of their own organizations. But it’s not just millennials who feel left out; in fact, less than 50 percent of C-suite executives feel they are receiving any type of development at all.
Without the CEO’s stamp of approval, no long-term commitment to leadership development ever will stick. Organizations have to start by engaging from the top down. It is also important to begin the conversation about your business priorities as they relate to leadership. What does that look like? Keep the model simple, yet flexible to accommodate a variety of people.
Leadership for the now
Leadership should be an ongoing investment; unfortunately, many organizations view it as a short-term series of episodic events that may occur one year, but not the next. Organizations that truly understand this will continue to invest in leadership development even during the bad times and later reap the rewards nearly triple or quadruple the levels of their competitors. Leadership isn’t a luxury you can just turn on and off when the time is right; rather, it is a necessity in which organizations should be investing.
Leadership for the future
The Bersin by Deloitte study identified that currently, 32 percent of organizations have a steady supply of leaders, while only 18 percent regularly hold their leaders accountable to identify and develop successors. Unless organizations can develop a steady supply of leaders and encourage those leaders to develop successors, leadership pipelines will be weak. Leadership must be treated as an ongoing strategic initiative in order to be effective.
New data-driven solutions are available to help organizations develop their leadership pipelines by better assessing leadership qualities, developing leadership paths and identifying what approaches work best. For instance, top-performing companies are leveraging learning management systems to create a central knowledge base where employees can access content, share knowledge and measure progress of professional development. Employers then can target the most successful learning experiences in order to scale training programs as their business grows and measure employee competencies to determine readiness for leveling up.
In today’s competitive business environment, companies must stay ahead of the game by continuously developing the leaders of tomorrow. Those that make the investment will be better equipped for success.
This is part two in our blog series on the four challenges facing HR in 2015 and beyond. Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at employee engagement.