Even high-flyers need a bit of support

Nov 14 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

It should be common sense that staff play a vital role in the growth of a firm. But even organisations that acknowledge this simple fact are failing to give their key employees sufficient help and support to deliver to their full potential.

A new survey of over 300 executives from North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific has found that in top-performing firms, eight out of 10 senior executives acknowledge and recognise the importance of staff in bringing about growth.

Unsurprisingly, in firms that are less successful, just two-thirds of senior executives agree that it is their staff who hold the keys to success.

Yet when the research, by consultants The Forum Corporation, looked more closely at the attributes and performance of staff in these organisations, it found that many of those tasked with leading growth believe that their seniors have failed to give them sufficient guidance or support.

Nearly two thirds claim they have been under-prepared, whilst one in ten complained that they have been given no preparation whatsoever by senior staff.

The key complaint identified by those staff involved in leading growth is a lack of training, education and coaching. Almost a fifth of respondents also said they need much greater management direction and support if they are to effectively champion growth within their organisation.

In stark contrast, a mere four per cent believe that they need to be given greater independence and decision-making authority.

"Senior management, either because of time, inclination or the fashion for autonomy, are labouring under the misguided belief that capable staff can just get on with new and major projects aimed to transform a business' performance," explained The Forum Corporation's Andrew Shapiro

"This simply isn't the case. Although everyone thrives on a challenge, staff can feel doomed to failure without the necessary support."

The need to better support staff is further reinforced, Shapiro added, by the survey's analysis of what makes businesses grow. Essentially, it is firms with greater leadership and agility that succeed – by creating new chains of responsibility and ownership across an organisation.

Top performing firms are better at building a climate of ownership and following through strategy and business development. They are far better able than less successful organisations to assign clear roles and accountability and twice as likely to challenge policies and processes that impede their firm's organic growth.

This isn't to say that less successful firms are not able to focus on areas that affect growth – indeed in areas such as product development and innovation they often outstrip their more successful peers – but crucially, they fail to combine these with the agility, leadership and cultural change of their more successful peers.

"Recognising the business' needs across a variety of areas – from organisational structure, to management process, innovation and product – is the recipe for achieving business growth," Andrew Shapiro said.

"What we are seeing is a certain dynamism amongst successful leaders who are able to come into a team and really engage with customers' unmet needs and drive strategy forward.

"These leaders create a climate of self-ownership and command – and instil it in those around them. By looking broadly at where top-performing firms outperform their counterparts, there is clearly a premium on the areas which provide organisational agility and flexibility. Senior management needs to engage in nurturing this kind of talent and ability."