T+D February 10 // Intelligence //

A Leadership Skills Gap?

By Dean Smith

What exactly will the phrase “highly skilled leader” mean in the coming years? New research offers some important clues.

As leaders struggle to ensure the long-term viability of their organizations in a volatile economy, a recent study from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) reports that a glaring gap exists between the leadership skills organizations have now and the ones they will need in five years.

Surveying 2,200 leaders from companies in the United States, India, and Singapore, the “Understanding the Leadership Gap” study identified the four most important leadership skills for the future as leading people, planning strategically, inspiring commitment, and managing change.All four areas are weak points among today’s leaders.

Executives and managers ranked a set of 20 leadership skills based on how important they will be five years from now and how accomplished their colleagues are at those skills today. The majority of competencies rated important for organizational success are not the leadership skills at which managers performed best. “Respecting individual differences” and “doing whatever it takes” ranked one and two, respectively, in current skills while “resourcefulness” was the only skill identified that placed in the top five of both current skill level and current skill needed.

CCL refers to this phenomenon as “the current leadership crisis” and, based on these findings, has developed the Leadership Gap Indicator—an assessment tool designed to help organizations define and measure leadership characteristics most important for their success.

“The good news is that companies still can develop these skills in their people, but they don’t have any time to waste,” said Sylvester Taylor, a CCL director who helped plan the study.

Social media tools can also play a role in helping to develop these skills quickly. “Significant advances in collaborative technologies during the last two years have made it possible to perform many of the functions of leadership through the virtual space,” says Tojo Thatchenkery, director of public policy at George Mason University. “Knowledge sharing tools such as SharePoint and Quicker and social networking portals give unprecedented opportunities to leaders to share their vision and strategy, and to inspire others.”

The study reports that the sooner organizations can understand the reality of their leadership situation, the quicker they can adapt by refocusing leadership development efforts and re-thinking recruitment priorities.

In “Growing Tomorrow’s Leaders,” a chapter from the 2010 ASTD Press publication, The ASTD Leadership Handbook, authors Lawrena Colombo and John Verderese write, “Leaders of tomorrow must be prepared to operate in a global, interconnected world and must be comfortable in reinventing themselves given the pace of change.”


One possible explanation could be that doing the next right thing for the business and addressing immediate needs has obscured the future for many managers—grounding them in the present.

“Agility in response to changing circumstances such as the current economic crisis and the resultant limited resources require leaders to rethink how they accomplish the work in front of them,” said Stan Gryskiewicz, president of the Association for Managers of Innovation and senior fellow at CCL.

T+D February 10 // Leadership //

Developing the Leaders of Tomorrow Today

By Ann Pace

A study sounds new alarms for identifying and developing leaders and makes sense of the boomer exodus in an improving economic climate.

Talk of a talent gap has been abuzz for years, but according to a recent report by OI Partners, organizations should feed this gap now before it swallows them whole.

Fifty-four percent of companies surveyed by the global career transition and executive coaching firm said they do not have enough qualified candidates working for them to succeed their executives and managers. The survey included responses from 212 primarily large and mid-sized employers throughout North America.

“The fact that more than half of companies have confirmed that they don’t have enough leaders currently in the ranks is quite significant,” says Tim Schoonover, chairman of OI Partners. “This proves our initial assumption that there is a talent gap.”

Schoonover explains that this gap first emerged because of generational demographics in the workplace. The workforce is currently composed of approximately 76 million baby boomers, but only 40 million Generation Xers. If a large amount of boomers retire over the next five years, that gap will only increase.

“Over time, organizations have become flatter, omitting those close connections employees once had with their peers and bosses by which they learned leadership and management skills,” Schoonover adds. “Now with people leaving organizations, we need that intellectual capital and the presence of leaders.”

Many organizations surveyed realize that they must address the lack of leadership successors for tomorrow by developing their bench strength today. Seventy-two percent of these companies plan to internally develop their high-potential employees to become future top managers, and 54 percent expect to promote their now-ready executives. This is a call for employers to determine who their high-potential employees are and provide them with the necessary leadership coaching and training. It is also an opportunity for employees to demonstrate that they can bring real value to their organizations.

Additionally, 40 percent of survey respondents plan to hire future leaders from their competitors, and 26 percent anticipate recruiting future leaders from outside their organizations.

“More folks in the C-suite are recognizing the competitive advantage of having prepared leaders,” Schoonover notes. “To sustain growth in your company, there must be a path to leadership. If an employee doesn’t have a leadership development plan in place and isn’t able to see her career progression, she is less likely to be engaged or to expend discretionary effort.”

And how is the improving economy expected to play into succession planning and leadership development?

“I suspect companies that are not developing high-potential employees and providing them a career path to future leadership are really at risk of those folks leaving,” Schoonover says. “Some people ask me, ‘What if I spend a lot of money to develop leaders and then they leave?’ Well, some might. But if you don’t develop them, you are guaranteeing that they will leave.”

T+D February 10 // Talent Management //

Getting to the Foundation of Talent Management

By Aparna Nancherla

Employers need to see the bigger picture when it comes to facing the specter of a mass retirement brain drain.

While the threatening dark clouds promising a baby boomer exodus have been far-reaching and frequent over the past decade, companies have done little to prepare for the implications of it, unless fretting counts.

Seventy-seven percent of employers have not analyzed projected employee retirement rates, and 69 percent have not analyzed the demographics of their workforce, according to a report titled “The Pressures of Talent Management” released by the Sloan Center for Aging and Work at Boston College. In addition, the study reports that 56 percent of companies have not assessed the skills their organizations need both today and in the future.

At the same time, however, 40 percent of employers anticipated that the aging of the workforce will have a negative or very negative impact on their business over the next three years. Why are employers guesstimating a risk without actually measuring the factors behind it?

Stephen Sweet, one of the co-authors of the report, notes that there are several causes behind this discrepancy. “One of the primary reasons is that we’re talking about change and a shift in the labor force that is gradual but profound,” he says. “There is a cultural and structural blockage to developing alternate work designs.”

Sweet notes that much of the work structure seen today is based on the mid-20th century, whereas the workforce now has needs that are outside of their jobs, and retirement is not necessarily an all-or-nothing option for older workers. For companies to support their employees, they need to think outside the traditional 9-to-5 work structure.

The data from the report showed that only 31 percent of companies felt that they had established flexible work options to a moderate or great extent. Conversely, about a third of employers reported not having enough programs for the recruitment (30 percent) and training (35 percent) of older workers.

Sweet also notes that though employers are understandably concerned about the baby boomer exodus, the specific composition of age demographics for different industries varies considerably. For instance, retail and accommodation services relies more on younger workers, while manufacturing and construction relies more on older workers.

One successful example is Abbott Pharmaceuticals, where there is a heavy reliance on higher-skilled workers. There are options for older employees, such as working reduced hours and relinquishing supervisory responsibility to do other tasks, as well as longer vacations and opportunities for sabbaticals, says Sweet.

Though older workers are the main target of the baby boomer exodus, Sweet also notes that companies should be assessing all their worker demographics throughout the life course, and finding ways to link knowledge to action steps.

Sweet recommends that employers use informal, low-scale tactics to stay informed about their employee demographics such as having discussions with supervisors to keep them aware of their workers’ plans and what options might be appealing to them.

T+D February 10 // Fast Fact //

New Career Rules Redefine Today’s Workforce

With the unemployment rate in the United States close to 10 percent, employed and unemployed people need to re-examine new career rules, according to ClearRock, an outplacement and executive coaching firm.

Today’s workers have more jobs of shorter duration and greater volatility in their positions, says Annie Stevens, managing partner of ClearRock.

ClearRock outlined eight new career realities:

  • Expect to have several different jobs. People will have more part-time work and do more freelancing or consulting work in between their full-time employment.
  • Always be prepared for unexpected career events. Last year was filled with layoffs, new job responsibilities, new bosses, mergers and acquisitions, and pay cuts.
  • Have a fallback plan, including consulting and self-employment. Never wait until the unexpected happens. Try doing some consulting or freelance work while you are still employed.
  • Never stop networking. Networking can be the key to a new job. Keep in contact with network contacts, join an association, or volunteer with civic or charitable groups.
  • Focus on perfecting your own personal employment brand. What makes you different from others? What value do you bring to your job?
  • Keep your résumé current. Update your résumé at least once a month, focusing on what you have accomplished for both current and previous employers. According to a recent Right Management survey, 44 percent of people update their résumé less than once a year.
  • Toot your own horn. Share the positive emails you receive from customers and co-workers.
  • Serve as a mentor for a new hire or promoted employee. This is a valuable opportunity to make a good impression on those who may be important to your career advancement.

The need for secondary or fallback careers is a new job market reality. Don’t be unprepared should a negative career event happen to you.

T+D February 10 // Healthcare Training //

Critical Healthcare IT Training Spurs Training Grants

By Kristen Fyfe

Advances in the healthcare system reveal training and employment opportunities.Few industries have shown resilience during the global recession—the healthcare industry is among these exceptions. A cursory look at the jobs section of any newspaper reveals myriad openings across the healthcare spectrum. The shortage is especially critical in the health IT field as the country moves toward the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs).

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced $80 million in grants for new workforce training programs to address the problem. The U.S. Labor Department predicts a shortage of 51,000 qualified health IT professionals over the next five years.

The money, authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), will be distributed primarily to community colleges. According to HHS, $70 million in grants will be allocated to community colleges to establish intensive, nondegree training programs that can be completed in six months or less. The other $10 million will go to the development of educational materials to support the programs.

The training programs will address the skills and competencies needed to fill six health IT workforce roles identified by HHS as being critical to the pending implementation of e-health records systems: practice workflow and information management redesign specialists; clinician-practitioner consultants; implementation support specialists; implementation managers and technical-software support staff; and trainers. HHS said that participating colleges would coordinate their efforts through five regional consortia across the nation.

David Blumenthal, HHS’s national coordinator for health information technology, said in a statement, “The expansion of a highly skilled workforce developed through these programs will help healthcare providers and hospitals implement and maintain EHRs and use them to strengthen delivery of care.”

T+D February 10 // Infograph //

If I Could Get More Training at Work…

Roughly 1,000 specialists and professionals in nonleadership positions were asked how they feel about their jobs,their opportunities for growth, engagement levels, and skills they desired to develop.