The mismatch between leadership supply and demand


Having a strong pool of leadership candidates to develop and rely on is essential for any organisation. However, do businesses today actually have this talent at their disposal, trained and ready to take on the reins?

Close analysis of a collection of recent studies suggests a mismatch between the demand for leadership talent and the supply organisations have access to.

Weak pipeline a problem

While many organisations across the globe may be pushing for leadership development, the proportion of those that have confidence in their pool of leadership candidates is in stark contrast. Just 13 per cent of respondents in Right Management’s Talent Management: Accelerating Business Performance survey said they had faith in the “strength of their leadership pipelines” to fill the crucial executive roles in their organisation.

It appears that a dearth of adequate talent is a prevalent problem in all areas of the organisation today. The survey revealed that around the world, the lack of skilled talent for leadership roles, a lack of talent at all levels and “less than optimal” employee engagement are currently the three biggest challenges in talent management.

“Too many companies are facing talent shortages, skills mismatches and weak leadership pipelines that threaten business growth,” said Ruediger Schaefer, group executive vice president EMEA at Right Management.

“Future success is dependent on a sustained strategic commitment to assessing, developing and activating talent.”

The shortage of sufficiently skilled leaders waiting in the wings appears to be one of the most pressing organisational issues today, as several other surveys have drawn attention to this trend.

Poor bench quality

‘Ready-Now Leaders: Meeting Tomorrow’s Business Challenges’, a joint study by DDI and the Conference Board, also highlighted the problems businesses today are facing with securing a strong leadership pipeline.

According to the global survey, 40 per cent of leaders around the world believe the overall quality of their organisation’s current leadership talent is high. However, fewer than one in five (15 per cent) said their organisation has access to a strong ‘bench’ – that is, the supply of next-generation leaders.

It is perhaps not surprising, then that leadership development is high on the agenda for many businesses today. According to Right Management’s survey, almost half (46 per cent) of senior HR executives around the world cited leadership development as their top priority for 2014.

Implementing a quality talent development program is essential to ensuring you can identify your organisation’s high potential leaders and prepare them to take on the leadership roles of tomorrow. So what distinguishes a great development program from the rest?

5 steps to an effective high potential program

Hogan Assessment’s ‘Five Steps to a Better High Potential Program’ white paper outlines the key stages needed when designing an effective leadership development program.

The first step is to define what high potential is. This involves outlining the key attributes and qualities you expect in your organisation’s leaders, so you have a set of criteria to look for in candidates.

Secondly, you must identify your high potential employees. To do this correctly, you must combine insight from traditional methods such as nominations and performance appraisals with personality assessments to form an accurate, unbiased view of a candidate’s capabilities.

Next, objective measures must be used to gauge personality, taking both bright-side (how we relate with others when we are at our best) and dark-side (what emerges when we are under increased stress, and can damage relationships and reputations) attributes into account. This approach will ensure a reading that isn’t clouded by politics or subjective relationships and views.

It is also necessary to focus on engagement in order to derive the most value and gain the best results from such programs. The final step, of course, is to develop your high potential leaders, ensuring they have a sound understanding of their strengths and weaknesses – and can build on these for the benefit of the company.