SURVEYS & RESEARCH - Summary Of Research Findings

Selection and Development of Top Executives

We surveyed the selection and development practices for top executives in over 40 major UK companies. Our findings revealed that those individuals who shape organisations and whose decisions can make or break the company are often selected on the basis of subjective selection methods. Furthermore, organisations reliant on top executives to succeed in constantly changing markets, invest less time and money in their development than they do for other managers.

Our findings highlight clear opportunities for organisations to increase the effectiveness of their selection of top executives and better harness their potential whilst in the organisation.

Encouragingly we found that where used, more objective selection methods such as assessment centres were found to be highly effective for the selection of top executives. Our results also suggested that investment in the identification of competencies for senior positions is well worthwhile, as it helped ensure the assessment of truly job relevant attributes. Similarly, career and succession planning were identified as being crucial in the retention of top executives.

The challenge in meeting the need for enhanced development at senior levels seems to be in finding innovative means to fit in with the hectic schedules of top executives. Our results show that external coaching meets this challenge and can be exceptionally successful. Where organisations need to improve skills across their senior management population, a structured approach, such as a development centre, is likely to be of benefit.

In terms of creating a culture of development within an organisation, genuine commitment from those at the top is a must. This is an area that Human Qualities will be conducting further research into. A great opportunity for organisations then is to cascade development initiatives, such as performance appraisal or development centres, from the top executive population.