Three Tips for Developing Organisational Leaders In the Middle East Sean Conrad

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Globally, organisations cite improving leadership “bench strength” as one of their most pressing issues when it comes to talent management. In the Middle East the concern is particularly pronounced as companies struggle to attract and retain top talent while addressing workforce nationalisation requirements. Suffice it to say that the answer doesn’t lie in hiring talent from abroad but rather, in developing the competencies, capabilities and leadership skills of Middle Eastern nationals.

The role of talent management

The shift from expat-based workforces to nationals-based requires not only HR departments but also the organisations as a whole to closely re-examine and, if necessary, overhaul talent management strategies. The objective of such an overhaul? Develop a more stable workforce, unhindered by language, cultural or educational barriers, where individuals can move about freely about their countries (no work visas required!).

Develop talent and leaders — at home

If leadership development isn’t a top priority for your organisation, it should be. Without the programs in place to develop homegrown workers, including tomorrow’s leaders, the economy’s top talent will seek opportunities elsewhere (most likely abroad) and you, as an employer, will continue to rely on and be penalised for hiring from the outside.

Towers Watson (2009) offers some pointers for keeping your existing employees loyal, engaged and contributing to organisational success. First, provide your employees and managers with the tools, training and development, and resources they need to work to the best of their abilities. Second, support the career progression and professional growth of your talent. Employee development programs are generally recognised to be an important way to ensure your organisation has the right employees, with the right skills to succeed. Programs are also critical in supporting employee engagement and retention — so your top performers and those earmarked for leadership roles won’t be enticed to go look further afield for opportunities. Do you have strong talent pipeline in place?

Organisations that have developed effective leaders and a solid leadership pipeline through employee development and succession planning are well positioned to take on the future. That said, here are some tips for developing strong leaders in your organisation.

1: Proactively identify your future leaders

Identify the high-potential employees in your organisation and measure their retention risk (i.e., are they likely to leave? If so, how likely?). Managers need to assess their team to accurately predict potential timing for promotion and risk of leaving. They should also discuss career aspirations and make recommendations for talent pool inclusion.

Consider using a 9-box grid—one of the most commonly used tools in succession planning and employee development. Working collaboratively, managers arrange every employee into one of nine types across a vertical and horizontal axis, based on three levels of performance and three of potential. Next, managers determine the developmental training and assignments that will be of greatest benefit to the organisation and the individual. Following group input, the planning process continues with a list of possible development actions, including feedback, assignments, and training.

2: Establish deep talent pools

Staying competitive requires an engaged, motivated and high-performing workforce. It also demands strong leadership and a talent pool you can build up and draw from at any time and for any reason. Talent pools are comprised of high-performing and high-potential employees who will be developed to assume greater responsibility in a particular area. You must also identify key competencies required for superior performance and success in each area, so you can create a list of learning activities that can help to develop each competency. You’ll likely want to organise these into learning paths that gradually develop increasing proficiency and mastery.

3: Develop talent and promote from within

Once you’ve established your talent pools, assessed development needs and implemented training plans, filling critical positions will be much easier. Additionally, your staff will feel engaged and be less inclined to look for the exit sign. The disruption or negative impact that can result from good employees exiting a company will be reduced. An effective succession planning strategy not only helps with engagement, it can also help with recruiting efforts. In the eyes of the outside world, you’ll gain a reputation for developing your people and promoting from within, which can help attract top talent to your organisation—a situation that any company would find appealing.

For more information on strategies that can help you identify, engage and nurture top talent, visit the Centre of Excellence for talent management training for managers.

Sean Conrad, a senior product analyst and Certified Human Capital Strategist at Halogen Software, writes regularly about the importance and impact of talent management best-practices.