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What Is Your Leadership Performance Bar?

23 August 2015
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Carl Jung once said that the privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are. This quote always makes me think about how to maximize our full potential. It is up to each of us to develop and embrace opportunities for growth and learning. But it is also the responsibility of employers, leaders and line mangers to build a learning culture. And herein lies the problem…or should I say the gap.



As economies rebound globally, companies are still lagging in their understanding of workforce issues. According to a major new global research study sponsored by SAP, ‘Workforce 2020’ by Oxford Economics, both executives and employees agree that companies are facing a leadership cliff and are not focused enough on developing future leaders.

Cultivating leadership and creating a workplace learning environment is something many businesses struggle with, yet it remains one of the fundamental building blocks of success. It’s hard to effectively manage something if you’re not measuring its progress and development – particularly something like leadership. When it comes to cultivating and enriching the skills of current and future leaders, every organization sets its own pace and expectations – either formally or by default. (Even if you’re doing nothing, that’s still a set point!)

Our study in partnership with Oxford Economics found that more than half of executives worldwide agree that problems with talent and skills are affecting business performance. One key difference we found is that a company’s level of revenue growth affects how well they are dealing with these problems.

Companies with above average revenue growth are more likely than their peers to provide employees with advanced training and development programs, and provide access to the information required to perform their jobs well. What may surprise you, however, is that underperforming companies are more confident about their leadership abilities – at least in their own assessment of their leadership performance and development. Yet high performing organizations are more cynical about their talent and continue to balance internal promotions and external hiring. This is what I call a healthy "Talent Paranoia" that keeps these organizations ahead of their competition putting them ahead on trends (think Millennials, contingent workers, globalization and an ageing workforce et al). In fact, more than half cite difficulty in attracting employees with basic to moderate skills – which has a direct impact on their workforce strategies. We are essentially looking at a polarized skills gap on a global scale. In other words, we are seeing a bifurcated economy of highly skilled and unskilled.

The good news is that research shows this gap can be bridged through better training and education, which has the potential to benefit both employees and employers alike. High performing companies have heard the message and are creating a learning mandate for their organization. They understand the benefits and impact to their business. This is also echoed in the research findings, which reveal that that high performing companies offer significantly more training programs as an employee benefit. Many companies start at the top of their leadership positions however, I believe ensuring you have the strongest first line leaders who touch the majority of your workforce is the most important place to start to grow the best leaders of the future.

The reality is that most companies still have a lot of ground to cover to prepare for tomorrow and need to rethink how they approach saving and focusing internally as they are trying to grow. Carl Jung is right in that is it a privilege to become who we really are. As employers, we have a responsibility to enable our employees to develop their talents and leadership skills for the benefit of both themselves and their organization. That requires HR to be at the forefront of creating a learning culture, and technology is the catalyst for change. It is important to lay the ground work now for making HR and learning strategic priority. Now is the time! Carpe Diem.

Brigette McInnis-Day is Executive Vice President, Human Resources for SAP.

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