I recently sat down with Piet Hein Merckens, Former CEO of Aviko and leadership influencer to discuss a shocking talent management trend that was exposed in a 2018 global leadership survey…

In this survey, the results stated that over 80% of CEOs say they do not have the talent within their organizations to execute upon their current corporate strategy. That is a tough statistic to try to wrap your mind around, and I was interested in Piet’s opinion on how did we get to this point and how there could be some solutions to solve this talent management gap.

Interview Summary

Piet began by acknowledging this was a concerning report, and as leaders, we need to address these issues. But in the spirit of fairness, He also brought to my attention some positives of this. The report shows that CEOs are hyper-focus on execution. They realize that at the end of the day, you can have a perfect plan, but you have to execute the plan to achieve success. While skills and talent management is clearly an issue, this survey shows that CEOs understand the importance of execution. 

He also shared unpleasant feedback to fellow CEOs: If they have been in the position for any length of time it is without a doubt, their responsibility to hire talent and create a developmental roadmap to success and advancement that leads to having the ability required to execute. The tricky part of this dynamic is also being inclusive of a global perspective, in the fact that diverse business cultures create different developmental philosophies to prepare executives and a CEO must be able to recognize this to deploy talent appropriately. A CEO should spend more time thinking about the impact of human talent upon the strategy and make it a leadership imperative.

When asked if there was any other concern on how we close this gap and what other factors created this environment, Piet had an excellent observation that is worth sharing and an opinion that may be a little controversial. Piet’s observation? Business schools need to evolve. 

Are business schools properly preparing our bench of talent in the right way to set them (and the company) up for success? We squeeze a large number of people into a short timeframe of coursework designed to give them the fundamentals of business, but is it the right fundamentals for the time, and are we teaching from the past or looking into the future on how they will enter the business world? Are we giving them the rights tools for the job? Do we provide both theory and practice?

I am aligned with Piet on this topic and champion the emerging science behind experiential learning (EXL) and the disproportionate progress seen in leaders embracing this approach. EXL is defined as; “Experiential learning is the application of theory and academic content to real-world experiences, either within the classroom, within the community, or within the workplace, which advances learning outcomes that are focused on employability skills. Experiential learning requires someone to not only engage in the experience activity but also requires them to reflect upon their learning and how their skills learned through their academic studies can be applied beyond the classroom. Opportunities are divided into three categories; course focused, community-focused, and work-focused, thus giving students hands-on experiences not only in the classroom but also in the community and the workplace” (Strategic Transformation Group on Employability, Carleton University).

Piet summarized the conversation by saying that CEOs have the opportunity to set the tone. At board meetings, with the executive team, with employees and clients, the CEO can make it know that human capital is a strategic imperative, and the reward is passed to others also who embrace the culture of professional development. 

Key Leadership Takeaways:

  1. Leaders should examine their bench, and do they have the right talent to perform their objectives?
  2. Does your organizational strategy include talent management?
  3. Are the schools that produce business executives teaching best practices or next practices?

Leader Action Plan:

  1. Review talent management plans, not from the perspective of traditional development, but rather are you building the bench that will achieve your strategic objectives? 
  2. Robust and transparent leadership championing the right type of human capital development will produce the culture you need.
  3. Hold yourself accountable for building the bench. 

What are your thoughts on preparing NexGen leaders? Please post your comments below and let us begin building a tribe of people who have a passion for followership, mentorship, and leading!