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Survive and thrive: leading for the future

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In times of crisis long term plans of any sort often go out of the window; an all-too-frequent casualty of this is leadership planning. Hay Group’s UK director of leadership and talent, Yvonne Sell, explores recent Hay Group research into the future work landscape, which found that building an effective leadership pipeline can be the difference between survival and failure.

I recall many years ago one of my university professors asking the class what the goal of any organisation is. Various answers were bandied about: profit, growth, market share. The list went on. The professor shook his head. These young, eager students just didn’t understand. For any organisation, whether public or private sector, family-owned or publicly-traded, the answer – of course – is survival.

But whilst the basic instinct for survival powers much of our organisational decision making, companies can easily become blinkered by a short-term focus. A typical reaction to turbulent times is to ‘zoom in’ on detail, cost control and margins; and in times of crisis, the budget and breathing space for important long-term leadership planning are all too often pushed to one side. 

However, a long term approach is fundamental to any organisation’s survival. It takes strong HR leadership with resilience, patience, and a good sense of business timing to encourage those at the top to step back and examine the bigger picture. 

Changing times

It is has long been said that having the right people with the right skills will better enable organisations to achieve their goals, but what about when the goalposts shift? Fixated on quarterly results, many companies stop at asking: “what do we need today?” They fail to define the blueprint for the future and therefore, inevitably, miss the opportunity to enhance business performance and galvanise themselves against future market developments.

Hay Group research shows that over the next twenty years, various global pressures will transform the face of organisations and leadership. Backed by 70 years of experience and practice, our Leadership 2030 research identifies the key global megatrends, from globalisation through to demographic changes, that will change the business world as we know it. Such investigation can help HR to communicate how the business landscape might look in the future, and therefore why leadership planning needs attention today. Understanding and communicating clearly how these trends could impact the organisation is vital in supporting leaders to ‘zoom out’ and channel their energies into survival. By incorporating the future into what is needed today, HRDs will be able to understand the strategic demands on future leaders, how leadership roles will look as a result, and the profile of the people needed to fulfill those roles. 

Survive – and thrive

Today’s organisations are facing an environment marked by financial constraint, growing complexity and intense competition – not only for market share, but also for leaders. As the emerging megatrends become business as usual, adaptation will remain critical for leaders and organisations to survive and thrive. HR leaders will need to play a central role in this shifting climate, encouraging the business to take a long term view of future strategic demands. To ensure survival, it will be essential to apply a future-focused approach to talent management, which is sufficiently agile to be able to continue underpinning business strategy.

Practical steps to building the leadership pipeline:

1. So? – Ask ‘potential for what?’ Work alongside business leaders to uncover current and future industry trends and identify the roles that will be critical to future success. 

2. Know – Evaluate the depth of the organisation’s talent pool, and the gap between this and future needs. Identify high potential individuals as early as possible by accurately assessing candidates and employees throughout the organisation against these future role requirements.

3. Grow – Reduce any talent gap by nurturing potential and recruiting external capabilities where needed. Create continuous development programmes for high potentials. 

4. Flow – Move talent around the organisation, exposing the most promising individuals to the greatest opportunities. Ensure the right level of ‘stretch’.

What successful leaders demonstrate in times of change:

•   A clear and consistent vision

•   Commitment to change

•   Resilience

•   Adaptability

•   Openness and approachability   

•   Credible, consistent and logical communication

•   A sense of humour

•   Trust

www.haygroup.com/uk

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