Global Top Employers survey reveals how important leadership development has become on the continent of Africa.
The rapidly changing face of leadership has seen the growth of a collective – rather than individual – approach to leadership and the empowerment of employees to strive for leadership roles regardless of current positions.
In a global business environment in which talent retention and leadership development have risen to pole position in priority, a worldwide survey has shown that Top Employers are increasingly recognising the importance of creating a business culture in which the next generation of leaders can develop and thrive as a draw-card for talent.
This was reflected in the HR Insights report on leadership development, a research study looking at a sample size of 600 certified organisations from 99 countries, which was conducted by the Top Employers Institute, headquartered in the Netherlands and globally certifying excellence in the conditions organisations provide for the development of their people.
The research study within Africa found that 95% of the participating organisations had a clear description of their desired leadership culture as a core part of leadership development strategy.
Where once hierarchy was a deciding factor in leadership development, now selection process is increasingly looking not to job title or position, but to influence and performance, giving employees the tools to grow themselves within the workspace.
What the survey found is that the way we define and identify leaders is changing. Along with influence gaining value over position and a more collective leadership approach, is a strong move towards empowering employees to own their own development and growth within the business, placing more responsibility for personal and career development in the hands of individuals.
“Leadership is important to remain relevant in the changing markets,” says Patrick Hull, Leadership Development Director, Africa, Unilever, the number one Top Employer Africa 2015.
“It gives Unilever competitive advantage in the industry. It also boosts the morale of our employees to know that they are supported in reaching their potential throughout their career journey at Unilever. It is something for which Unilever is renowned. In terms of graduate recruitment, we have been hailed as a university to build and invest in our talent.
“One of our key talent principles is that leaders build leaders at Unilever. We have ‘thought leaders’ that help us shape our leadership strategy globally and leadership programmes that are designed to support our employees’ career path from entry level graduates to senior leadership.”
Hull says Unilever‘s world-class development programmes are globally aligned and run by qualified experts.
“We also tailor programmes to suit the local environment, for example, the rest of Africa. Our employees are given opportunities to implement their learnings in the workplace – this is also how Unilever measures the return on investment. We also fast-track careers through development by using internal programmes, global mobility, rotation and so forth.”
Key trends identified by the Top Employers Institute include self-select involvement, measuring methods and the use of digital technology, all of which are geared to give future leaders the opportunity to gain broader life and commercial skills and to step outside their comfort zones with challenging projects within and without the organisation.
Individuals should be encouraged to take the initiative in developing their skills and capabilities. There is a growing belief that people develop fastest when they feel responsible for their own progress. This was reflected in the survey results.
This culture of high-performing organisations, making the leader selection process available to any manager who is interested, is helping to contribute to better global leadership effectiveness. Anyone in an organisation can aspire to be a leader with the right commitment and support.
For this to work, it is crucial that information on the leadership development strategy is readily available, and this is still lagging. The global survey showed that only 69% of the global Top Employers offer freely accessible information to their employees, while in Africa 56% of participating organisations have virtual collaboration tools in place to support their leadership development programmes, and 42% have online coaching/mentoring tools in place.
It is vital that leadership development programmes help to equip future leaders with behaviours, capabilities, vision and perspective.
Having said that, much of the change is being driven by innovative developments in digital technology, such as online coaching and mentoring, e-learning, virtual collaboration and social learning and enterprise networks, but at present only global best-in-class Top Employers are reported to use all the technologies available. But it is shifting.
With changes in leadership development have come innovative new ways to measure global leadership initiatives. Traditional measures of effectiveness are now boosted by other means of measuring success, such as sales, productivity and engagement scores of leaders’ direct reports. In Africa, 72% of the participating organisations have defined KPIs to measure and steer leadership development.
What the survey has shown, is that this open approach to leadership development, one in which employees are empowered to grow, build and measure their own career paths towards leadership positions, is one which is being harnessed by companies globally which are focused on attracting and retaining talent, and it is changing the face of leadership development as we have traditionally known it.
Samantha Crous is the Regional Director: Africa and Benelux at the Top Employers Institute (TEI), www.top-employers.com.
The full HR Insights report on Leadership Development can be found here.