Why HR has leadership back-to-front

Companies are generally putting the cart ahead of the horse when it comes to nurturing leaders, says one head of talent management

While the vast majority of companies see leadership as a top priority, very few of them are actually taking the right approach to developing high potential staff, said Simon Moylan, head of talent management at Hudson.
In fact, he adds, his company’s annual surveys have highlighted this gap over and over.
“Each year when we survey for the HR priorities, leadership always comes out at number one or two,” he said. “What was surprising was every year we get that as number one, but it’s not what we see in practice when we talk to businesses.”
This year, Hudson found that 92% of organisations placed leadership as their most important focus.
To do this properly, firms need to implement four key components in their leadership development strategies, Moylan said:
  1. A framework stating what the goals are and what a ‘good leader’ looks like
  2. Processes to identify future leaders or the potential capabilities of current leaders
  3. A pipeline offering a clear understanding of how many leaders are required, what skills are needed, where they will be placed, when they are required, etc
  4. A plan for leadership development which fills up any gaps and weaknesses
While the majority of companies focus on this last component, most are lacking in the other three, Hudson found.
“The survey showed us that 90% of organisations have something in place around development,” Moylan said. “But only 32% have a framework in place; they have no definition of what good looks like. So what are they developing if they don’t know what good looks like and they don’t know what capability their leaders need?”
Additionally, 46% of firms don’t have a pipeline in place, he added. This means they won’t know how many leaders should be developed – whether they need 10 or 1,000.
Thirty-seven per cent don’t even know what their current capability is, he said. He questioned how these firms could target gaps in leadership without this information.
“It goes back to that scattergun, hope-it-improves type of approach,” he concluded.
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