• Women over 55 best suited to lead transformational change, finds PwC

  • 18 May 2015
  • Comments 13 comments

HR encouraged to expand traditional definition of talent

Employers are being urged to look beyond traditional talent pools as businesses face a stark shortfall of strategic leaders able to deliver successful transformation.

According to research from PwC’s consulting business, just 8 per cent of senior managers have strategist attributes required to affect change.

Of the 6000 European professionals surveyed, the largest proportion of strategist leaders were found to be female and over the age of 55, an area of talent often “overlooked,” said Jessica Leitch, people and organisation consultant at PwC.

These females were more likely to be able to see situations from multiple perspectives, employ positive language and exercise power courageously, according to the analysis.

The report defined a strategist leader as someone who was likely to have wider experience of settings, people, and also of failure, which engenders humility of perspective and resilience, so that they know what to do when things don’t work.

But while organisations grapple with rapid technological change, stalled growth and global restructuring, less than one in ten current leaders have the capabilities, attributes and mindsets to lead transformational change, it said.

Mark Dawson, PwC partner in people and change, said: “Industries as diverse as big supermarkets, banking and healthcare have ‘wicked’ problems knocking on their doors right now.

“How successfully they deal with these will largely depend on how well they can harness and retain Strategist leadership talent within their ranks. 

PwC said the way many companies attract, retain and empower leaders required an overhaul, but admitted it might “ruffle a few feathers” of the more traditionalist management structures.

“Empowering strategists is not about finding a successful operational manager and giving them a job title with the world ‘strategic’ in it,” said Leitch.

“It’s about finding people who can think and work outside the existing system, who can see what needs to change and are able to persuade or inspire others to follow them.”

For HR, that means expanding the definition of talent and “not just looking to recruit in the image of existing leaders,” she added.

“Historically women over the age of 55 would not have been an area of focus, but as the research suggests, this pool of talent might hold the key to transformation and in some cases, business survival,” she said.

According to the report, a successful strategist leader was open to frank and honest feedback, an area that current leaders struggled with, Leitch said: “HR should be encouraging leaders to take their personal development seriously.

“Many typically think that the methods that have got them to where they are today don’t need to be challenged, but what strategist leaders are is open to institutions developing them further. That means not just focusing on horizontal development, such as competencies and skills, but vertical development including the ability to make decisions and behave in complex situations,” she added.

Do you know an employee aged 50 or over who deserves special recognition? Help People Management take a more realistic snapshot of the UK workforce, as we look for the greatest over-50s at work in the UK. Visit http://bit.ly/PM_50over50 to make a nomination (you can nominate yourself or someone else): there's £75 in John Lewis vouchers available to one lucky nominator

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Comments (13)
  • Iam over50 and do feel there is there is ageism in the workplace, no matter how much experience we have

  • I know plenty of women who fit the description of strategist leaders but they run their own businesses. What a shame the report was full of photos of young people and not one of the over 55s who are supposed to be more likely to be the strategist leader.

  • It makes perfect sense. Hope companies actually pursue this venue.

  • Interesting. This should motivate qualified and experienced women stay employed.

  • I share a similar experience to Ann. I was made redundant two years ago at the age of 54 from a senior advisory job share post. I had occupied this post for more than ten years but was made redundant (with no pension benefits) when my job share partner left and my role was converted to a full time post during a re-structuring exercise. I haven't had any success at all in securing another part time or job share post, although I've been offered permanent full time work at a more junior level. As Ann has already mentioned, part time opportunities in the HR profession remain very rare, especially at a senior or strategic level. I'm now volunteering in the heritage sector instead as I do not wish to work part time in an HR admin role, but volunteering doesn't compensate for the loss of a career which has spanned almost 35 years. What a waste of talent, qualifications and years of experience. I have so much to offer an employer with my previous strategic management and senior advisory experience but I'm not prepared to work full time at this stage of my career and haven't done so for almost 26 years!

  • It's good to see this demographic receiving some recognition. Responding to this and in particular, the comment from Melanie, this is exactly the ethos of the new Social Enterprise, Prime Candidate, to challenge the inequity in the UK employment market for older workers, and provide an environment that supports them back in to work. The recent research from PRIME confirms this 'hidden workforce' but also the huge positive potential in benefit to UK GDP if we support older workers back in to employment.

  • I agree with the other comments. I had a Senior HR position and took an early release package in my fifties and since then I have been seeking part-time HR work, however the only HR work I can get is at a much lower level despite my qualifications(Char.FCIPD), skills & experience. In all 3 employments I have worked on a temporary basis for, my contracts have been extended and my work valued however it is so difficult to get part-time HR work especially at the more strategic levels. I do agree that women over 55 would be ideal to champion change.

  • I would have loved the chance to do this sort of role but too late now. I have been officially retired for 6 years! Part of the problem with the more 'mature' workforce is the salary range,younger and hence less experienced people are cheaper. My 58 year old brother was erning more than his much younger manager. He was dismissed last August!

  • That's excellent news!!

  • Whilst applauding PWC's insight into the qualities that "over 55" women can bring to organisations, the stark truth is that many of this age group have been frozen out of meaningful careers after taking career breaks, and are often blocked from applying for work which could reveal their "strategic" approach by recruitment agencies that persist in telling them that they cannot re-enter the market place at the same level they left in !! There are many more women that have given up trying to add value at a senior level than there are in the workplace being overlooked for positions.

    Getting these individuals back into appropriate positions is surely a bigger issue for Great Britain PLC.

    Why are there so few organisations looking at how they can support this age group back into senior positions????

  • An interesting read, but in my experience there's a shortage of talented senior HR or business professionals in key roles post fifty. Whether it's a question of senior professionals choosing to leave a business, or that they struggle to get hired into key roles in this age range. I think there is an opportunity for HR and the talent strategies they employ. A start would be at challenging the stereotypical perceptions of what great talent looks like and have that translated into both talent acquisition and retention strategies for the fifty plus age group irrespective of sex.

  • Interesting

    Too my knowledge there is nothing in CIPD or CMI qualifications or training courses which deal with ‘wicked’ messy problem problems or the systems thinking approaches such as SSM, VSM, CHAT, SODA, CSH which go some way to address them . Even more so, I doubt the average HR manager or director understands VSM and the basic law of management cybernetics, ie, Ashbys law of requisite variety and how this relates to the resource based view of the firm.

  • Good to see the attributes of women over 55 are at last being recognised. What a shame this has come so late after most of us have already been eased out of our management positions and put on the scrap heap to await our also over looked and postponed by Mrs T state retirement.