Standing up for the weakest in the team has always been important

So tell me again, why did we reduce investment in leadership development?

By Chris Sheppardson, Managing Director, EP

Discussions over culture, people and leadership development used to be on almost every board agenda but today it is very rare to talk to a CEO about these three issues bar trying to answer why there are seemingly fewer emerging leaders break through.

It is all linked together. The good news is that there is a growing awareness of the issue and some great work, by many companies and people, is taking place to change the landscape.

One can argue over the causes and many will date back to the early to mid-00s when all a whole number of jumbled thinking came together to change to treat people almost as commodities.

It was a common argument in those days that the average lifespan of a FTSE CEO stood between 24-36 months and therefore thinking about people development was a luxury. No, it is a part of leadership and not something that should be delegated away. It says straight away that developing people is secondary to making money – and before we enter that debate, there is a direct link between the two.

In the early 00s job boards took off and companies realised they could create processes that controlled spiralling costs and allowed them to compete for talent in the marketplace on an equal basis. Has the recruitment of talent really improved over the last fifteen years? I would suggest the answer is no – based off the number of people that feel that recruitment processes alienate them, and reject them on a tick box exercise

There is an argument that investment in training and development has halved in relative terms over the last twenty years even though almost every piece of research all those years ago stated that training and development was the No.1 reason why talent was retained within a business or attracted to a business.

Improved technology has allowed businesses to work off lower margins, with less people and not pass on inflationary increases to the consumer. All good but what else was sacrificed?

One can argue the rights and wrongs but such trends happen. However at the core there has been a perspective that talent acquisition was almost a commodity. This could not be more wrong – just as CEOs cannot view people development as a luxury item. In a service business, people are the core. Prets has faced no little criticism in recent times but I suspect that many consumers will forgive them as their service levels are of such a high standard.

The hope is that the pendulum is swinging back towards investing in great people once again. L&D will need to change – as it does make one smile how many L&D directors state that their strategies are excellent as their boards ask where the new leaders are coming from. – and there are new challenges to face but bottom line, there is so much great talent around that the industry is in good hands.