Must speed up bringing on talent, say firms


Companies across the world are adopting a variety of strategies in a bid to speed up the development of their top talent, with targeted feedback on performance and long-term international assignments viewed as the best ways to develop global business leaders.

Research by The Conference Board has found that almost eight out of 10 (78 per cent) of the 81 companies polled said they were seeking a variety of approaches to improve their global talent development.

Providing targeted feedback on performance and potential was most popular, at 47 per cent of those surveyed, and was also felt overall to be the most effective tactic in accelerating the nurturing of global talent.

The most effective practices to develop global business leaders were longer-term international assignments (cited by 33 per cent) and international cross-functional team participation (18 per cent).

"The best way to accelerate global leadership development is to have a sound framework," said Robert Kramer, principal researcher at The Conference Board.

"It is important to identify what lessons and performance demands are needed to build international business proficiency, and to find key talent and focus attention on the fast learners," he added.

Because the primary vehicle for developing international leaders was experience, it was important to recognise early the experiences that prepare talented people to become global executives, the report recommended.

Some companies were developing key developmental jobs for talented, experienced executives and conducting interviews with the experienced individuals.

Several of the firms polled suggested that early assessment could also be carried out through assessment centres, rating scales and manager input.

Selection criteria for this include job performance, learning agility, evidence of early leadership skills, and demonstration of adherence to company values.

Assessing early leadership attributes required at least three years of work experience to demonstrate performance and potential, it estimated.

Well-managed firms (or firms with a return on investment equal to or higher than their respective industry averages) were more likely to accelerate global leadership development by giving global leadership talent access to a few, targeted, developmentally-rich positions.

They also provided greater opportunities for global networking, used assignments in foreign client or supplier organisations, employed focus groups and used off-site education or training programmes.

Well-managed firms also made more use of longer-term international assignments (of two or three years or more) to develop global business leaders.

Additionally, such firms said they involved their global leadership talent in expatriate assignment goal-setting.

Their global business leadership activities differed distinctly from their general business leadership activities in that they required learning in how to handle business and personal stress.

The firms polled also overall rated early overseas experiences such as specialised offshore assignments as one of the most frequently used accelerating techniques.

Some 86 per cent of the survey participants that used such a technique reported that it was a moderately to very effective development technique.

In addition, more than two-thirds regarded education and training to be only a supplement to actual expatriate assignments in the development of global leaders.

Less well-managed firms, however, felt the use of education or training programmes was of equal or greater effectiveness than expatriate assignments in developing global business leaders.

"This signals that expatriate assignments in these less well-managed firms are not producing the leadership development benefit they could be," said Kramer.