Magazine article New Zealand Management

Executive Muscle: Tone Up or Waste Away

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Executive Muscle: Tone Up or Waste Away

Article excerpt

Investing in development and training has always been a win-win proposition for employers and key employees, but with New Zealand claiming the lowest unemptoyrnent rate among OECD countries, employers need to fully accept this proposition or risk becoming a casualty in the war for talent.

Consider this. In 2006, personal career development may be more important to a key executive than money--and that's a good reason to get serious about career development programmes, say human resource and people management experts. Last year Denis Orme, chief executive of the Insurance Brokers Association of New Zealand, told employers at a Robert Half Finance and Accounting breakfast that staff loyalty has little to do with the amount of money they receive. Instead, Orme advocated developing mutual trust, job challenge, and quality of collegiate relationships, along with work-life balance and mentoring and buddy programmes to aid staff retention.

In June, the results of an Employment Trends Survey of 300 employers commissioned by Select Australasia and Clayton Ford found the four most successful staff retention strategies were attractive pay and benefits, personal development opportunities, formal induction programmes and ongoing structured learning and development programmes.

Fast forward to last November, when visiting generational HR expert Avril Henry told the New Zealand Herald that people aged 28 to 40 (generation X) crave constant change, career development and learning, and to be better managers than previous generations--money alone won't cut it, said Henry, because both generation X and Y want a good-looking CV. She also cautioned employers against assuming older executives have one eye on retirement and little interest in career development--an assumption that is often wrong, says Henry. Meanwhile, half of the organisations surveyed by Select said it is important to have an attraction and retention strategy that makes allowances for generational differences and the development needs of the older workforce.

For organisations that listen, the message is clear: executives of all ages and stages value career development opportunities more than ever before. HR and people management experts believe if these needs are met, an organisation will enjoy greater staff retention and satisfaction, 'smooth sailing', increased productivity, reduced recruitment costs, and confident and able key employees.

The who and how

Former General Electric CEO and management guru Jack Welch would have you believe every employee can benefit from formal career development programmes. In his recent book Winning, Welch says passionate managers are not only found at executive or senior levels of companies, but on the front lines as well--business owners, middle managers, those running factories, line workers and university graduates. What ties everyone together, argues Welch, is the desire to win.

However, Welch is American. In New Zealand, while it's true that people at all levels of an organisation would benefit from ongoing career development, the size of the profit made by smaller New Zealand businesses dictates some selection between individuals. But before you draw up a shortlist, be sure budget is the problem and not attitude, warn the gurus.

"New Zealand organisations suffer from a bit of the 'she'll be right' and 'near enough is good enough' attitude. This limits the potential of New Zealand managers," says Mike Watson, spokesperson for the New Zealand Business Excellence Foundation (NZBEF).

What's best?

There's a veritable smorgasbord of executive development options; the most common include one-to-one coaching, group coaching, face-to-face mentoring, distance mentoring, and formal management training that might be adventure-themed, philosophy-focused or conducted in a classroom, online or outdoors. So which is best?

NZBEF's Watson says the best programmes are those selected by organisations armed with an accurate knowledge of their executives: what is the character of each individual like? …

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