North American executives get far fewer international postings during the course of their careers than Asian or European executives, but it may be because they don't pursue them, according to a survey by The Conference Board and Right Management. This disparity may hinder global leadership development at U.S. and Canadian companies.
The survey, which polled senior HR executives at more than 600 organizations worldwide, sought to gain insight on which leadership development opportunities these organizations valued most. Executive coaching and mentoring topped the list for North American respondents, and also were highly valued by European and Asian respondents. Action learning and focused skill development also were listed as being important for leadership development.
However, European and Asian respondents claimed international assignments had the most impact on leadership development at their organizations, while North Americans ranked them as having almost the least impact (social learning was found to have the least impact across the board on leadership development).
"Most organizations today are affected by global trends, even those without a presence in other regions or countries," says Rebecca Lea Ray, senior vice president of human capital at The Conference Board. "Globalization has been unremitting in terms of markets, competition, suppliers and partnerships, so it is essential for organizations to have leaders who are up to the challenges of working within diverse cultures, commercial models, mobile workforces and customer preferences."
By not prioritizing international experience as a development opportunity, North American executives may be missing out on "action learning on a global scale," says Ric Roi, head of the global center of excellence for talent management at Right Management. "It astonishes me that so many smart executives reach their mid-40s without having overseas experience. Nothing can take the place of managing in a region, culture, and work setting that is completely foreign. This is how global leadership skills are forged, skills that are desperately needed by U.S. and Canadian companies in the years ahead."