Tackling the leadership challenge in APAC

Written by
Changeboard Team

21 Nov 2012

21 Nov 2012 • by Changeboard Team

Growth in AsiaPac

Social mobility and an increase in global opportunities have led to a rise in interest in high growth markets such as the Asia Pacific region.

As organisations look to succeed in this key market, there is an increasing need for HR professionals to attract, develop and retain the best leadership talent. But this isn’t without its challenges. 

Addressing the leadership gap

When you look at the latest senior level research it is clear that the talent challenge around leadership capability in high growth markets such as APAC is stark. Take for example the results of the PWC 2012 Annual Global CEO Survey. When comparing global challenges, the report found that recruiting and retaining high potential middle managers and senior management teams were significantly higher concerns in growing than in developed markets.

The reasons for this are three-fold. HR professionals in the region may often be dealing with:

  • Relatively inexperienced senior management teams
  • High attrition of their most capable individuals (being enticed for the next pay rise and better title)
  • An inadequate pipeline of potentials to replace them

In order to succeed, then, HR professionals need to overcome these challenges and close the talent gap. But how can this be done? From my various conversations with senior HR directors in the region, the organisations that are having most success appear, at least anecdotally, to have the following in common:

Start with the end in mind

Companies with the highest success in closing the talent gap invested time in strategic workforce planning (SWP). This included understanding and acting on the link between business plans (or potential scenarios) and leadership talent demand. It was clear that they understood what was likely to ‘hit’ them and had taken appropriate steps to act.

In some cases this was relatively straightforward, such as having two successors identified for each ‘top 200’ role. For others this involved more covert planning, such as furtively researching leadership capability in competitor organisations to access their people. 

Define high performance

In order to address the leadership talent gap, there's also a need to clarify what high performance actually looks like. In an ever-changing economy, it’s almost impossible to predict the technical skills an organisation will need from its leaders even in two years’ time. Successful organisations focused instead on identifying the leadership qualities required from candidates, for example, agility and adaptability, which allows individuals to move between roles quickly and easily.

It’s also important to create an environment whereby these high potentials can reach their full potential. If HR teams are attracting leaders who have the flexibility to move across the business, there needs to be the opportunity to achieve this internally. This can be done by creating more chances to move to new roles regularly, or project and secondment options. 

Act now for the future

With almost no exception, success was the hallmark of HR teams who focussed on talent pipelining. As organisations increasingly move into new sectors, it's difficult to know what talent will be needed, where it will be required and when an opportunity will be available. But waiting until a position needs to be filled is not a sustainable approach for growing organisations. Instead, by pipelining internal and external talent across the globe and within multiple industries, a company will have access to some of the top candidates as soon as a relevant role is developed. 

Undoubtedly the business hub in the Asia Pacific region will continue to grow, and with it the need to close the leadership talent gap will increase. By driving initiatives such as strategic workforce planning, talent pooling and opening up more opportunities for high potentials, HR professionals in the region will be better placed to attract, retain and develop the top leadership talent.