• Developing effective leaders is biggest business challenge, say HR managers

  • 1 Mar 2016
  • Comments 2 comments

Research by Roffey Park also finds employee engagement and succession are high on the agenda

HR managers believe developing effective leaders is the biggest organisational challenge faced by businesses, research by leadership institute Roffey Park has found.

The institute's 19th annual research report, The Management Agenda 2016, found that nearly four out of five HR managers believe developing appropriate leadership and management styles is the main people challenge facing their organisation.

HR managers in the public sector have the least confidence in their organisation's leadership and management capability, with only 40 per cent agreeing that their organisation has the leadership ability to deliver its strategic objectives, compared to 54 per cent in the private sector.  

Of the 1,000 survey respondents, more than seventy per cent also cited employee engagement and morale as a challenge, while a further seventy per cent said succession planning was a key issue.

Despite succession planning being highlighted as a challenge across the private and the public sector (70 per cent and 82 per cent respectively), under half of public sector HR managers (45 per cent) said their organisation was 'successful' or 'very successful' at developing and appointing successors. Managers in the private sector had slightly more confidence in this ability (59 per cent).

Michael Jenkins, chief executive of Roffey Park, said: “Organisations need to start talking about ‘talent preparedness’. These days, the most successful companies are those that combine formal development with a creative and open-minded attitude to ‘experience-creation’.

“This could mean a senior person opting out of leading a pitch presentation and inviting a junior colleague to lead the effort,” suggested Jenkins. “Experience creation like this naturally takes a lot of nerve and courage on the part of both the individual and their organisation – it is a risk but, judged well, is a risk worth taking."

The Management Agenda also looked at motivation at work, finding the majority of managers (86 per cent) said they were most motivated by the opportunity to make a difference, with just 41 per cent citing financial reward. A sense of autonomy and the freedom to decide how work is done ranked as the second biggest motivator (76 per cent).

Further research published this week by recruitment company Robert Half also looked at the issue of succession planning, and found the outlook was not as bleak the Roffey Park study suggests.

The Robert Half survey found almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of financial executives said their business has a formal succession plan in place. Only six per cent of respondents said they had no strategy at all.

When asked how confident they were in their organisation's ability to operate effectively should a senior executive step down, 45 per cent said they were 'very confident' and 49 per cent said they were 'somewhat confident'.

Phil Sheridan, managing director at Robert Half UK, said: “The loss of a vital senior team member has the potential to significantly disrupt a business, especially if there has been little or no warning. Our study shows senior executives are now recognising that succession plans should be a core part of business management to avoid an organisational crisis."

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Comments (2)
  • That which is topical is not strategy.

    Unfortunately most HR professionals are leaping to address the topical and not truly engaging in strategy. This article highlights the approach of many HR practitioners, responding to discomfort (symptomatic disorders) rather than addressing the needs of organisations at a systemic level.

    In every organisation the issues itemised in the article are important. The challenge for HR is to rein in the knee-jerk responses and craft strategies that integrate all elements of the profession, creating a systemic response that recognises the interdependence of many factors across an organisation.

    It is naive to imagine that addressing leadership (or any other attribute) alone will be the solution to the ills of modern business. What needs to happen when changing one dynamic is to recognise how all other elements also need to be changed - improving leadership will facilitate business improvement if reward, policies, procedures, performance measurement, inclusion, etc are all aligned. If mis-aligned, they reinforce the status quo and inhibit growth.

  • Very true.

    Reason why most of the Strategy created by key persons of the organisation fail for the organisation.

    HR needs to take it up seriously and tactfully with top, middle and lower management.

    The role of HR is drastically changing from pure service providers to indirect or direct contributor to generating revenues for the organisation.