In an interview with my colleague Loraine Lawson, The Hackett Group’s Chief Research Officer Michel Janssen and Global IT Advisory Program Leader John Reeves, in their discussion of borderless businesses, spoke about the difficulties of developing new leaders within those companies.
Janssen summed it up by saying that too many companies have grown so large they can’t even print out a list of employee names. He said:
So how do they manage a global talent pool or an enterprise talent pool when they can’t even print the list of employee names?
In The Hackett Group’s study of key issues for enabling borderless business, Global 1000 companies rated three talent issues among their top concerns: acquiring and developing the skills needed to meet changing business requirements, retaining key talent and increasing employee engagement. In addition, its report calls analytics the heart of business transformation, an area in which IT is expected to lead, and notes that a new role – enterprise process owner – has emerged as a new partner for IT.
Yet, as so many business processes have been moved offshore, how will companies identify and nurture future leaders? It’s a problem that manufacturing has faced – that by outsourcing so many processes, the company loses the internal knowledge of core processes.
As Janssen explained:
You used to hire an IT programmer who became an analyst who became a business analyst and senior business analyst and then who became business partners or whatever -- those were kind of the food chain. Now that chain is broken, whether it’s in the finance area or the IT area or any of the business. So the CIOs are having to figure out, well, how am I going to get my future IT—my senior IT guys that are business focused, that are close to the business? It’s not so easy to do.
He said one solution he keeps hearing is to hire new managers from the offshore operations, though he laments that companies no longer want to train promising U.S. employees.
[Training programs] exist in different places in the world, but not in the U.S. On this side of the world, the talent war is really about I need to have 50 specific skills. I need to have somebody with a very specific technology skill, a very specific industry skill. I need people that understand what global really means. … It’s very specific skills that don’t exist and they're very hard to come by.
… They can’t just all be programming stuff and all of a sudden instantly become businesspeople. … How do you develop the finance people if all they’ve ever seen of the business is the accounts payable process? … The short-term fix is the best price for the best labor, but that’s not the long term solution.
He says that to effectively address their talent needs, companies will have to develop global management programs.
You’ve got to spend real money to put people on real airplanes and say, listen, I’m going to take this really bright guy .., and have him work in London for three years. And from there I’m going to send him to Dallas and invest another three years. But it costs real money.