NZIM: Backing the best

There isn’t, as Britain’s Financial Times newspaper recently reminded us, any such thing as Nobel prize for management. But to be honest, it would be difficult to make compelling case for adding the science of management to one of the five prizes of physics, chemistry, physiology and medicine, literature and peace specified by Sweden’s Alfred Nobel. An award for economists was established in 1968 by the Swedish Central Bank but, it’s not technically Nobel prize.
Nevertheless, gifted business leaders can make difference to our world. Apple’s Steve Jobs is an obvious contemporary example. And, as the FT article also pointed out, the management world is fairly indebted to the incisive thoughts of management thinker Peter Drucker. So, without Nobel to aim for, countries will have to make do with what they have to acknowledge outstanding and enterprising individuals in business.
NZIM and NZ Management magazine established the Young Executive of the Year Award to recognise and applaud the accomplishments and potential of the next generation of managers and leaders. And that is important for number of good reasons.
Enterprise needs competent and committed young leaders. The shortage of management and leadership talent is as acute as the abundance of problems and opportunities awaiting them. The Young Executive of the Year Award was established to “recognise stand-out individuals”, no more than 35 years old. Finalists are identified as those “prepared to go beyond perceived limitations” and to strive for personal and organisational excellence. Over the 15 years of it history, the Award has spotlighted some exceptional individuals. (See panel)
The need to encourage, promote and role model young managers and leaders is as obvious as it is necessary. As global consultancy Deloitte pointed out in study published earlier this year: “Talent shortages are affecting business results today, and shortages are anticipated to intensify as the economy improves.”

Talent strategies
The pace of globalisation, the aging of the workforce and advances in technology are all key influences on New Zealand’s talent shortages, the Deloitte study found. And these trends “create new economic conditions that call for new talent strategies”. It warned, however, that too many organisations are relying on “old tactics and outdated programmes” to tackle the looming talent shortage dilemma.
The Deloitte survey of 360 New Zealand businesses identified three critical issues. It found that:
• Talent problems are real, not an abstract concept of something that may happen in the future.
• The shortage of talent will get worse.
• Employers must spend more time understanding what their employees really want.
While the majority of employers surveyed – 81 percent – said talent shortages were currently impacting their businesses, the problem did not seem to translate into action. “Employers should be doing more to analyse and predict their future talent needs over the next two to three years, and what they can do to limit shortages and compete in an increasingly tight talent market,” the Deloitte study said.
As economic conditions improve, the shortage will worsen and “valuable employees will be enticed away by better opportunities”, more so than in the past couple of years the study warned.
And understanding what employees really want should now be an employer priority. Now is the time for organisations to reflect seriously on the “overall people strategies”. Those strategies must be aligned with what employees’ value and with the organisation’s overall business objectives. “Retention and engagement strategies are just as important as recruitment strategies,” the study concluded.

On the move
The Deloitte survey also found large number of employees expected to move on from their current employer. That, if nothing else, should be ringing alarm bells. NZIM’s chief executive Kevin Gaunt agrees with the Deloitte findings that too few employers devote sufficient thought to their overall people strategies, consequence of which is that employees are constantly on the look out for better employers and job opportunities.
“And employers who encourage their best people to step up for the Young Executive of the Year Award provide tangible evidence of their support for the individual and recognition of her or his accomplishments. That is no small thing,” says Gaunt.
The Deloitte study suggests level of employer complacency when it comes to predicting future staff turnover levels. Most of those surveyed are unconvinced they will face “significant” voluntary turnover rates. The result surprised the consultancy’s analysts who warned that the “relaxed levels of concern” probably reflected lack of real understanding of the problem. And nearly one in four of those who indicated “at least some likelihood of departure” held CXO positions.
Both Deloitte and NZIM believe today’s new economic and general business conditions require new talent strategies. The Deloitte research endorses the approach and message NZIM has been giving its members and service-user organisations over the past two or three years that people development is critical to organisational success and future survival.

Most impact
The Deloitte study identified two people management practices that will have the most impact on the success of businesses over the next two to three years. They are employee/leadership development (cited by 76 percent of respondents) and employee communications.
“Given that managers were cited as the types of employees in shortest supply, it is therefore not surprising that their development features so prominently. By developing leadership talent within company, employers can develop leadership pipeline and build succession from within,” the study suggested.
However, performance management was prioritised by only 32 percent of respondents. This is lower than comparable research from overseas. The finding, when combined with the generally less-than-desirable management performance findings of NZIM’s own Management Capability Index, endorses the belief that New Zealand’s performance management practices lag behind world standards.
Larger organisations in the study placed relatively more emphasis on employee/leadership development and workplace planning, and relatively less emphasis on employee communications. But regardless of size, the study concluded that employers need to give more thought to understanding the focus of their leadership and employee development programmes.
The conclusion is one with which Gaunt agrees. “And the Young Executive Award provides us with another opportunity every year to focus on and show New Zealand enterprise just how important our young leaders and the next generation of employees are to New Zealand,” he adds. M

Reg Birchfield Life FNZIM is writer on management and leadership. [email protected]

Roll of Honour: Young Executives of the Year 2000-2010
2010 Claire Szabo, English Language Partners NZ
2009 David Larsen, RayGlass
2008 Jono Brent, Christchurch City Care
2007 Mason Pratt, Provoke Solutions
2006 Brett Gamble, Solid Energy
2005 Grant Watson, McDonald’s Restaurants
2004 Anushiya Ayingaran, Nurse Maude Association
2003 Mike Sang, Airways Corporation
2002 Andrea McLeod, Public Health South
2001 Dr Richard Templer, Industrial Research
2000 Joseph Thomas, Chatham Islands Enterprise Trust

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