Findings are a ‘wakeup call for business leaders’

by L&D15 Sep 2016
Organisations that get digital leadership right perform better in the marketplace, and have more satisfied and engaged workers, according to new research by Oxford Economics and SAP.

They surveyed over 4,100 executives and employees around the world and from a range of industries, during the second quarter of 2016. This included locations such as Australia, New Zealand, United States, United Kingdom and Singapore.

In what Oxford Economics labelled “a bad sign for future leadership”, they found that only 60% of companies have adequate programs to ensure they are developing a digital workforce, according to executives.

The Leaders 2020 study included research that millennial executives are less confident in their company’s ability to recruit skilled workers (54%, vs. 70% of others), develop talent for the digital workplace (52% vs. 65%), and plan for succession (39% vs. 56%).

Further, it found that companies who get digital leadership right:
  • Report stronger financial performance. They are 38% more likely than others to report strong revenue and profit growth.
  • Are building a stronger leadership pipeline. They have more mature strategies and programs for hiring skilled talent (85% vs. 64% of others), building diversity (56% vs. 48%), and succession planning (72% vs. 50%).
  • Have happier, more loyal employees. Employees from well-led companies are more satisfied (87% vs. 63% of others) and more likely to stay in their jobs if given the chance to leave (75% vs. 54%).
Edward Cone, deputy director of Thought Leadership at Oxford Economics said these findings “should serve as a wakeup call for business leaders”.

“Your employees, your younger executives, and your financial results are all sending you a clear message about the importance of updating and upgrading leadership skills for the digital age,” he said.

“It’s time to listen and lead - or get out of the way.”

The research identified several areas where companies can improve their leadership skills and business performance.
· Communicate a company-wide digital vision. The best leaders not only have a strategy for going digital, they are also sharing it with employees across the organisation.
· Continuously update executive and employee skill sets. Everyone, from the ground floor to the executive suite, needs digital skills and the ability to learn new ones quickly.
· Flatten the organisation. Leadership needs to empower managers and workers across the enterprise to make decisions quickly, without bureaucratic bottlenecks.
· Emphasise diversity. Companies that cultivate a diverse workforce and take a broad range of employee perspectives into account are better poised to succeed in a global economy - and to keep employees happy and engaged.
· Listen to young executives. The growing cohort of millennial executives has a strong vision for leadership in the digital economy - taking their advice may be a shortcut to digital transformation.

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