Retaining top talent

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

John Hines
Area Vice President – South Asia and India, Verizon
I see the biggest challenge facing leaders today as the need to drive return on investment through innovation. This will increasingly become a critical discussion for most Fortune 500 companies as enterprises experience numerous unprecedented changes in the marketplace.

The environment in which enterprises operate today is different from what we had five or ten years ago. It is increasingly connected and the amount of data available is growing exponentially. Organisations need to mine insights from this data and re-evaluate their business models in order to identify opportunities that they can leverage on.

To me, re-evaluating business models is not about understanding what the model is, but what the model is going to be. By doing this, and concentrating on their core competencies, organisations will be able to differentiate the role of innovation from standard research and product development.

I believe that the best return on investment comes from a strategic devotion to innovative research, development, and partnership. At Verizon, we endorse ‘collaborative innovation’ – involving the entire company in identifying new ideas and developing them by leveraging our resources and expertise.

My advice to solving the innovation challenge is to seek the right talent. A good start would be to re-evaluate skill sets and look at more leadership-oriented talent that’s not just passionate about what they do, but can also identify opportunities to move forward and enable business expansion.

John Lee
GM – Korea and Southeast Asia, Mundipharma
Rapid globalisation is both the biggest challenge, and the biggest opportunity for leaders today.

This is giving rise to a new generation of companies where leaders need to operate with a nimble structure, carefully adapting the business model to cater to the needs of individual markets, as well as effectively managing this diversity and change when navigating their multi-border operations.

These developments also present new complexities that leaders need to be mindful of. Firstly, leaders should be locally flexible and adaptable in each market to cope with the increasing diversity of customers and channels.

Mundipharma exercises a healthy talent mix by placing leaders with international experience in regional positions and creating movements, while also championing localisation, by placing local leaders in markets where knowledge of the operating landscape is essential.

For instance, I was offered the role of general manager in Malaysia, after serving as the commercial director in Korea. Concurrently, the general managers for developing markets such as China and Brazil are both local experts.

Leaders also need to align a dispersed workforce across different markets with a single set of values and strategies. Leaders regularly conduct one-on-one coaching sessions with their teams so that everyone is on the same page.

Lastly, leaders must be able to deploy and nurture talent in emerging markets, especially since these are seen by many as major growth drivers.

Ferdinand de Bakker
Lecturer – Change Management & Communication, Nanyang Technological University
TJ and Sandar Larkin already pointed it out in their book ‘Communicating Change’ in 1994: leaders of organisations, be it in the private, public or social sector, have lost credibility. It is not difficult to understand why.

Business literature has countless examples of leaders who didn’t walk the talk, or worse, lied to their employees and, as a result, failed. Edelman’s 2014 Trust Barometer shows not much has changed in the last 20 years. CEOs don’t take ethical and moral decisions; they don’t tell the truth, regardless of how complex or unpopular it is; and they don’t solve social or societal issues, to name just a few of the many reasons why employees stopped listening.

It is quite amazing that so many of today’s leaders and those around them, including highly capable communication specialists, fail to recognise this. To make matters worse, the old concept of who an employee actually is does no longer exist.

Today and even more so in the future, employees work four days a week or less; they work from home; on a project basis; or have consultancy contracts. This doesn’t make leading any easier.

Employees trust what fellow workers say, they trust what their direct supervisor says, and they don’t trust what management says. Many do not care about the organisation they work for, no matter how many blogs, videos, memos, speeches and other types of communication come from their leadership.

Yet it’s not so difficult for leaders to change this: honesty; integrity; and clear, concise and compelling communication will go a long way. So does the realisation that to lead well, one must serve well.

Analysing the Workday advantage

Sandeep Aggarwal, Chief Financial Officer of Aon-Hewitt Asia-Pacific, shares his thoughts on the Workday finance and HR analytics platform. He says the cloud-based system is intuitive and easy-to-use, but still provides powerful insights across the functions.

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