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Leadership gap looms

Wednesday April 22, 2015 Written by  Saba and
Only one in 10 employees aspire to the corner office, which may explain why one-third of global companies struggle to find senior leaders.
The latest Global Workforce Leadership Survey from Saba Software and captured the gap between priorities and expectations of HR leaders around the world and the workers they employ. Overall, the findings show that the biggest issues for powering future business growth in the changing economy are the differences in perspective around leadership, development and accessible online tools for ongoing development and collaboration.
Leadership is hard to find
With about four million Baby Boomers retiring every year, companies worldwide are seeing a growing talent gap at the executive level. In fact, 30 per cent of HR executives polled said they were struggling to find candidates to fill senior leadership roles. Fifty-nine per cent of companies agreed that succession planning is more challenging in today’s economy.
Unfortunately, their efforts in developing the next generation of leaders are missing the mark:
  • Nearly half of all surveyed companies (46 per cent) said “leadership” was the skill hardest to find in employees and only 36 per cent of employees listed “leadership” as a strength in their organizations.
  • Of the companies polled, 39 per cent offer leadership development programs, but only 15 per cent of employees feel the training they receive is preparing them for their next position.
“What’s concerning here is that, quite literally, the future leadership at some critical global organizations is at risk,” said Emily He, chief marketing officer of Saba. “There’s more at play than the retirement of Baby Boomers; the fundamental approaches businesses take to find, develop and inspire leaders – at all levels – need to change.”
What is a leader, anyway?
Recent studies show that 68 per cent of workers see themselves as leaders. In contrast, when it comes to sourcing the top ranks in the business, the picture becomes grim. Less than half of HR leaders (47 per cent) said they have an adequate pool of talent to fill new roles in their company, and only 11 per cent of employees polled aspire to C-level positions.
Among those aspiring to C-level positions, the study found a striking gender and generational divide:
  • Only 36 per cent of women versus 64 per cent of men aspire to be C-level executives in their organization.
  • Just 31 per cent of younger Millennial employees want top spots, versus 38 per cent of Generation X.
“Individuals are embracing leadership by virtue of their actions and their impact.  Experience trumps title,” He said. “So companies in turn need to redefine what they mean by leadership beyond job descriptions and begin to see the network impacts their future leaders are driving toward.”
Development must get personal
Employees are looking for personalized career direction at every stage. In fact, most employees are looking for quarterly or weekly feedback and access to development wherever they are. They expect content, contacts and courses offered at work in the same style they consume personalized content at home through Amazon and Netflix, but the findings show a stark contrast in reality:
About half of all companies polled (52 per cent) conduct annual performance reviews at a minimum.
Companies are still using spreadsheets (58 per cent) as their primary way to track performance metrics.
Less than one-quarter of businesses worldwide are using advanced technology for insights into their people and effectiveness of their talent programs. Just 23 per cent are using big data and metrics visualization and 21 per cent tap the predictive analytics potential of machine learning today.
“The bottom line is that companies need to rethink their talent management and employee engagement strategies,” said Dan Schawbel, founder of “Personalized employee career development programs, accessible tools and tracking systems and a focus on redefining and re-engaging leadership – at all levels – will help deliver on the innovation and growth that businesses require.”
The Global Workforce Leadership Survey was sponsored by Saba Software, a leader in cloud-based intelligent talent management solutions, and, a research and advisory membership service for forward-thinking HR professionals. The survey was administered in February and March in eight countries. The survey polled 1,000 human resource professionals and 1,000 employees between the ages of 22 and 70.

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