HR must take charge in cultivating leaders, finds research

Task should not be ‘simply delegated’ to line managers, report warns

HR is in a prime position to help grow future leaders and should not leave line managers to single-handedly carry out the task, new research has suggested.

Business Linked Teams’ Grow Your Own Leader report, seen exclusively by People Management, found almost half (45 per cent) of HR professionals felt the duty of identifying and developing future leaders should fall to line managers. 

Despite this, more than two-thirds (69 per cent) identified a current need to cultivate the future leaders in their business and 89 per cent believed succession planning was a priority for their organisation. 

“HR professionals must ensure that line managers are fully on-boarded and not simply delegate the task of identifying leaders and expecting them to do the rest,” the report concluded. 

Samantha Caine, managing director at Business Linked Teams, added: “It’s clear that HR leaders are placing too much expectation on line managers without providing the right levels of support. As a result, line managers are struggling to overcome the challenges identified on top of their existing day to day challenges.”

Meanwhile, two in five (40 per cent) of the 100 senior UK HR professionals surveyed thought tracking the development of potential leaders should be the responsibility of line managers and a similar proportion (38 per cent) said the same about making sure existing leaders are continuously developed. 

Commenting on the findings, Dan Lucy, principal research fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies, said: “Unfortunately, it’s still the case that too many individuals attain leadership positions as a consequence of technical competence without any real interest or capability in managing or developing people. HR has a huge and important role to play here in ensuring that the right people are put in leadership positions, and their capabilities developed.”

However, the HR professionals quizzed by Business Linked Teams highlighted several barriers to rolling out leadership programmes, including solving practical arrangements (38 per cent), finding participants for mentoring and peer-to-peer coaching (31 per cent) and getting buy in from senior teams (30 per cent). 

While 92 per cent of organisations questioned said they had some sort of leadership programme in place, just a sixth (16 per cent) had a consistent leadership strategy across their entire global business. 

“As organisations face the challenges of a globalised marketplace, they require experienced

leadership that knows the business inside out and can seamlessly succeed current leadership while demonstrating the skills and behaviours required to bolster the organisation in each specific market,” Caine added. 

Separate research, published by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in July, revealed a third (33 per cent) of UK employees felt their company was not doing enough to prime potential leaders. 

At the time, experts warned businesses could be left with an “abyss-like gap for leadership” if they did not take measures to address succession planning.