Goldman Sachs. HSBC. American Express. Citigroup. JP Morgan Chase.
Over the years, these and other blue-chip financial services companies have earned a place among the top 20 Best Companies for Leadership. In fact, there has been at least one financial services company among the top 20 every year Hay Group has conducted the study – until this year.
That may not be entirely surprising. Firms are still struggling to engineer their recovery from the most severe financial crisis in a generation. As part of the aftermath, government control and regulation have been substantially strengthened around the world, particularly in Europe and North America. At the same time, virtually all firms have tightened their internal risk management processes.
In the face of these difficulties, sector leaders and observers are divided as to the best way to navigate through the turbulence, and position financial organizations to take advantage of opportunities when the climate improves. Some believe the current situation is an extreme instance of a normal dip in the long-term business cycle. Others, including the financial services team at Hay Group, believe that both the rules of the game and the game itself have changed fundamentally and irrevocably. In this view, the way forward requires fundamental changes in the way companies do business.
Results of the 2011 Best Companies for Leadership study suggest that the financial services firms are now lagging behind the top companies in all these dimensions:
There is some good news, however: in their leadership development practices, financial services organizations do rank higher than the survey average. For example, financial services companies rank significantly higher than all companies in the survey in actively managing a pool of successors for mission-critical roles, and in giving people at every level the opportunity to develop leadership capabilities. These practices create a foundation that resourceful leaders can build on.
Firms with such leaders will be best positioned to prosper when economic climates return to more positive and uniform growth – and undoubtedly the organizations that will lead the industry back into the ranks of the Best Companies for Leadership.
In an uncertain and uneven global business environment, everyone agrees that companies must innovate to survive. The Best Companies for Leadership follow four business practices that support meaningful innovation and drive market leadership.
Leading companies have recognized that meaningful innovation requires a long-term commitment to a disciplined approach. They have focused their efforts on creating a culture of innovation: an environment throughout their organizations that invites and supports innovation and allows new ideas to flourish. the practices followed by the best cos. enable and encourage innovation that matters - and any business can follow their lead and make innovation easier:
India Inc. has got so used to dealing with uncertainty in the business environment – that we forget how recent some of these changes have been. Globalization has altered competitive landscapes across markets, restructured supply chains across industries, and redefined skill sets required of leaders to succeed. Despite these challenges, many companies are opting for Organizational Restructuring in a bid to position themselves for success.
What drives the need to reorganize work, jobs and structures? It could be a line manager, a middle manager or a CEO who recognizes that groups are not cohesive or engaged. Or, it might come from an external source—an upcoming M&A—or anticipated growth, a new management team with new strategies or regulatory changes that will seriously change how work is done. Working with organizations of varying sizes and scale, we have found that success in organization restructuring hinges on a few key factors.
A few years ago, a new CEO in a large utility company who, determined to cut costs, slashed the HR budget, thus eliminating services HR provided. Soon, organization charts were discarded because executives believed as long as everyone knew what they were doing the company would continue to travel the course. The reality was that job accountabilities were vague, and no one understood the structure. Inevitably, things began to slip. One executive described the situation as “5-year-olds playing soccer.” Clearly, this proved the basic need for articulating the challenges that restructuring is expected to solve.
Further, a key challenge is to focus on the new governance – how the enterprise is run and where key decisions are made. When a U.S. firm acquired a European competitor to gain access to international markets, we found that no unified sense of purpose existed. Between marketing and production, communication was about squabbling for resources. But after reorganizing into business units—each with globally unified product and market accountabilities—management was again focused on profitability. It became clear why roles existed, how they added value, how they could share data, what their common goals were, and why they had to work together for success.
It has been found that many CEOs use a top-down approach to redesigning – they restructure the top three levels and leave the cascade to middle-level managers. On the contrary, successful restructuring requires a step-by-step approach. It pays to have different teams anchoring different activities: Senior Team to provide direction and decision signoff; Design Team to conduct diagnosis, clarify the design intent, and develop structure; Action Group detail design work; and Implementation Team as the agent of change. This will also ensure that informal networks, which are a source for information flow and culture dissemination, are not forgotten during re-design.
With the structure in place, the onus is on job design, as the most direct way for managers to maximize organizational ROI on total rewards. Research has showed that when jobs have clear accountabilities, people take initiative and appropriate risks and they innovate, as they understand how their work relates to that of others in the organization. Moreover, organizations must take a pragmatic decision on the skills needed and if they can be acquired from the market; then focus on building the rest of them. For example, when an organization moves from a functional structure to a business unit structure, skills needed in the new organization are more about general management as opposed to functional expertise, making staffing for the new roles difficult.
Finally, the restructuring is woven together by the softer aspects – simply creating an environment in which everyone is able to perform to the best of their abilities can have a huge impact. Our research shows that climate improvement programs can translate into a 30 per cent improvement in profitability. Additionally, a collaborative approach to work and leadership is absolutely necessary to build endurance to see this through. For instance, our research on the Best Companies for Leadership 2010 found that Siemens has linked 20 per cent of its top executives’ discretionary bonus payments directly to collaboration, as part of its One Siemens approach.
Evidently, organizations today cannot operate from the rules of the past, which were largely around optimization and scale. Commitment to organizational restructuring has to increase steadily – as a testament to the growing intensity of the challenges every business faces. Organizations have to be dynamic, creative and networked – and the ones that get there faster than the rest will be the future icons of industry.
Leaders of the future will need to be adept conceptual and strategic thinkers, have deep integrity and intellectual openness, find new ways to create loyalty, lead increasingly diverse and independent teams over which they may not always have direct authority, and relinquish their own power in favor of collaborative approaches inside and outside the organization.
To successfully develop this combination of skills and qualities – and adopt what is, in effect, a ‘post-heroic’ leadership style – they may need to abandon much of the thinking and behavior that propelled them to the top of their organizations in the first place.
But if they want their businesses to survive and thrive over the next two decades they have no choice. Unless they dramatically change their leadership style, starting from today, their organizations will lose out in the race for innovation, the march to globalization and the war for talent. They will be, quite simply, unsustainable.
This is the conclusion Hay Group has reached after working with Germany-based foresight company Z-Punkt to identify the megatrends they believe will affect organizations and their leaders profoundly over the coming decades and analyzing the implications of each at a corporate, organizational, team and individual level.
Megatrends are long-term processes of transformation on a global scale with a broad scope and dramatic impact. They can be observed over decades and can be projected with a high degree of probability at least 15 years into the future. They affect all regions and stakeholders, including governments, businesses and individuals. And they transform economies, societies and policies at a fundamental level.
The six megatrends Hay Group singled out are:
Several of these have already been researched intensively. But they have not, until now, been researched in the context of leadership. Nor have these six particular megatrends ever been investigated in one single piece of research.