Mainland manager dearth spills over into Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 May, 2012, 12:00am


China is experiencing a serious leadership and managerial shortage, according to the latest Future of Talent Management China Survey.

Conducted by the global consulting firm Mercer, the survey found leadership succession (46 per cent), succession planning (43 per cent), retention (37 per cent), and leadership training and development (27 per cent), the primary talent-related challenges currently facing China's business leaders. Only 13 per cent of organisations polled were 'very confident' of their ability to ensure an adequate pipeline of future leaders.

Miranda Shu, Mercer's Greater China Human Capital business leader, says the lack of confidence stems largely from the scarcity of those with managerial skills, coupled with the ever-increasing demand for those skills.

'As companies have been aggressively investing in China, there has been an unprecedented demand for executives with the right kind of leadership and managerial skills,' explains Shu. 'However, supply of such executives is limited, partly due to the fact that the traditional education system is not set up to train this type of talent, and the required skills need to be accumulated over time,' she adds.

Shu says the drought in leadership and managerial talent is having - and will continue to have - an impact on productivity for at least 20 to 30 years.

'The lack of managerial skills will make it difficult for companies to identify business opportunities as they will not be adept enough to take initiatives and make sound business-decisions based on limited information,' Shu adds.

'It will make companies incapable of capturing opportunities due to the inability to collaborate and get the resources required. It will also cause problems with talent retention, as they will be unable to demonstrate career progress and pay for performance.'

To combat the shortage, Shu recommends companies improve the leadership abilities of their current staff and to take advantage of the economy's recent 'soft-landing' to implement long-term succession plans.

'While the accumulation of experience does require time, a well-designed programme with a meaningful, stretched assignment schedule can expedite the process,' says Shu. 'As such, the situation could well change if companies in China are able to develop reasonable growth strategies that are aligned with talent strategies, and create talent-development programme that expedite the growth of their internal talent.'

Shu adds that many mainland companies are acquiring international professionals and managers to bridge the talent shortage, with Hong Kong being a key talent source. However, leadership and managerial skills in the city also seem hard to come by these days. 'Hong Kong is seeing a similar phenomenon, although the situation is not as severe as on the mainland,' says Shu.