How to develop future leaders

Jim Matthewman, director and lead consultant on HR strategy, OD and workforce planning at Towers Watson, looks at how you can turn your employees into leaders
How to develop future leaders
By Jim Matthewman
Tue 14 Apr 2015 04:19 PM

Compared to the global market, the Middle East is struggling with attracting and retaining critical employees.

According to Towers Watson’s 2014 Global Talent Management & Rewards Survey, a striking 43 percent of the people employed in the Middle Eastern labour market report an intention to leave their current jobs within two years and only 36 percent of employees are highly engaged.

With 75 percent of Middle East employers say hiring activity has increased over the last year (versus 48 percent globally), it is now more than ever crucial for employers to recruit and keep the right employees.

Organisations need to understand the difference between management and leadership. Managers usually focus on internal issues, such as implementing and executing the strategy, planning, budgeting, and so on, while leaders have an external focus, driving the strategy of the company and planning ahead, see the forecast and beyond, communicate the mission, vision and values. Nevertheless, managers and leaders are being assessed on the same competencies, even though the roles are different.

Employees don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers. On these grounds, leaders need to inspire and motivate their employees. In order to achieve that, they need to be sensitive to their aspirations and values and to be aware of the generation gap. The set of factors that drives young employees (Generation Y or the Millennials) is different from that of the previous generation, which is usually in a managerial position. In the UAE in particular, young professionals are motivated by career advancement opportunities, challenging work and job security.

Generation Y is defined by “the eager to grow”. They are highly educated and competitive. Born in the era of internet and high-speed communication, these individuals are used to working at fast pace, are at ease with sourcing information and highly adaptable when it comes to change. Therefore, seniors need to encourage and promote their growth and development, but also provide constructive feedback.

Accelerated leadership programmes would be an effective tool in retaining young talents. High-potential employees can be identified by subjecting them to challenges where they will be stretched and assigning them responsibilities outside of their comfort zone to determine whether they can be developed further into future leaders.

Succession planning and development programmes are key tools in spotting bright young talents. The benefits come for both sides aplenty. The first step in the succession planning process is to recruit superior employees, then develop their knowledge skills and abilities to finally prepare them for advancement in key positions. This practice creates opportunities for highly-competitive employees, feeding their need for growth and development. As the organisations expand or loose key employees, through succession planning there will always be staff members apt to fill in the new roles.

A successful succession planning system will manage risks like key positions being vacant over a long period of time, the risk of unprepared successors, the failure of an external successor or the risk of poor deployment of talent against business goals.

Only 35 percent of the UAE employees think that their organisations provide useful career planning tools and resources and 37 percent think that they are provided opportunities for personal growth. Training is a very important element in career development and, considering the attraction and retention indicatives of the young UAE workforce, training and mentoring should be on the top of the manager’s list.

However, the main challenge is the lack of time that managers can allocate to mentor their employees. With only 39 percent of the UAE employees conveying that their organisation has effective training programmes, it is imperative to implement viable and consistent internal and external training programmes. While outsourcing these programmes to external entities can be beneficial, a very profitable practice for both parties can be mentoring.

Training and mentoring combined are the ideal solution, providing both theoretical and practical insight for future leaders.

Ultimately, employees expect their companies to provide a road map to success. In training young talents, managers should support the efforts of their employees through a coaching and enabling approach rather than the sanctioning and directing route.

The multicultural context in this region should also be taken into consideration, as both Western and Arabic leadership styles translate into different directorial patterns.

Jim Matthewman, director and lead consultant on HR strategy, OD and workforce planning at Towers Watson, looks at how you can turn your employees into leaders.

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