I’ve had a lifetime of great teachers, both in schools and in the “real world.” But business has turned out to be the greatest educator and experience the sharpest master. With each passing day, week, month, year, I learn more about myself, my employees, my company and the industries we serve. That, of course, is what it’s all about. I apply those lessons and work to grow our business within the framework of the available resources.
Public service messages urge you to “never stop learning,” as if there’s any choice in the matter. Even if you actively try to bury your head in the sand, learning is relentless. Education, simply put, is inevitable.
As learning executives, you know that in the business world, education comes from a variety of sources, from water-cooler conversations to CLO-directed curricula. The tools are vast, as are the messages they impart. It’s the challenge of the CLO to direct both formal and informal learning, channeling it in a way that everybody wins—the company, the employees and the industry served.
Optimistically, I’d like to believe that everyone gets this, everyone has accepted this and everyone is applying this. Realistically, I know that while education is a universal solution, it’s not universally accepted.
I’ve got research to prove that thesis, unfortunately.
RHR International recently released its Executive Bench study of Fortune 200 companies and their executive development practices. Our own Business Intelligence Board research has proved that leadership development is one of the CLO’s major missions, but the RHR study helped drive that importance home.
Surveying 115 leading corporations, RHR found only 25 percent–or one out of four–are confident in the abilities of their executive branch to meet the needs of tomorrow. What’s more, half of the companies surveyed anticipate losing half of their current senior leadership by 2010. If these numbers are indeed an accurate depiction, then leadership development and succession planning need to be top priorities at companies of all sizes.
The study went deeper, just like the problem does:
- 57 percent of companies that are developing potential leaders have been doing so for less than three years.
- 62 percent of companies that are developing leadership are doing so “informally and inconsistently.”
- 71 percent of companies plan to look externally for future leaders more than 25 percent of the time—more than half the time in some cases.
Combine these signs of poor preparation with the fact that baby boomers are already retiring at record rates, and you’ll learn there’s a crisis coming. That’s one reason we’re focusing the Fall 2004 CLO Symposium on “Innovations in Enterprise Education and Leadership Development.” Preparing for the future, especially at senior levels, is a survival mechanism, not a trivial pursuit. The halls were packed at our Spring Symposium with informal conversations about leadership development; this time, we’ve firmed up that focus. (By the way, in case you aren’t familiar with the CLO Symposium, you can check it out–and register–online at www.cloevents.com.)
So what did I learn today? Just that nothing is a given, not even companies metaphorically covering their most sensitive parts. I’ve learned businesses that know better are putting themselves at risk. I’ve learned “do as I say, not as I do” is sometimes a corporate policy. I’ve learned some companies are heading for an iceberg, and they need to start steering to port soon.
What have you learned today? And, more importantly, what are you going to do about it?
Editor in Chief