The importance of e-leadership in a global knowledge economy

With economic turbulence making investment capital difficult to obtain, many CEOs are internalising their efforts to focus on the inherent potential vested in their workforce.

In 2013, The Conference Board CEO Challenge survey found human capital to be the chief concern for global CEOs, ahead of operational excellence, innovation, customer relationships, and economic risk.

With a focus on retaining and developing their most promising talent, today’s leaders seem to be recognising the value of their people in the fight to remain competitive. There has also been a notable shift towards leadership as a key driver for engagement; unsurprising given that companies with effective leadership strategies tend to financially outperform those without. But leadership also needs to develop to meet the needs of modern business.

For companies to remain innovative (and therefore competitive), managers must be trained to recognise the technologies that will bolster their performance — thrusting e-leadership skills into the spotlight.

CEOs: “it’s what’s on the inside that counts”

In an effort to counter the current trend for ‘job-hopping’ — with job tenure getting shorter and shorter, and one in four 16-34 year old UK workers aiming for 8-12 jobs in their lifetime** — CEOs are increasing realising that retaining and growing the talent within their walls is often more cost effective than recruiting new talent.  

In fact, the top five strategies cited by global CEOs for meeting the human capital challenge (grow talent internally, provide employee training and development, raise engagement, improve performance management, and retain critical talent) centre on the development of existing talent.  

The marriage of engagement and innovation

Today, leaders with the ability to anticipate the future, foster creativity and respond to emerging global trends are highly prized by innovative firms looking for the sort of talent that can guide them through slow-growth periods and recessions. But as more and more countries become fully enabled knowledge economies, leaders will also need to possess a certain technical awareness to help them identify those technologies with the potential to transform business models and create innovative opportunities for growth. This is the dawn of the e-leader.

E-leaders will be expected to evince creativity, an entrepreneurial mindset and the ability to take risks, whilst also demonstrating strategic thinking, an awareness of cultural diversity and the tenacity to embrace and manage change. But the need to combine business and management skills with IT skills presents its own challenges.

The e-leadership conundrum  

Many of the top positions are difficult to recruit for, with baby boomers retiring and upcoming generations lacking the necessary skills to execute these jobs effectively: the gap between the skills needed by today’s global businesses and those catered for in schools, colleges and universities is well known. To make matters worse, there’s a current shortage of young people opting for ICT-related courses and degrees, potentially creating a wider gap in the future.

Adecco Group explored this issue back in 2012 with its Unlocking Britain’s Potential report, and identified the need for employers to work in closer collaboration with educational institutions to both inform the curriculum and to offer more effective work experience placements that showcase the range of professions available.

With human capital presenting itself as the main area of concern for CEOs around the world, educational bodies and training institutions must take the necessary steps to ensure the skills required by today’s businesses are being developed, ready to deploy into a competitive global economy — before the talent pipeline diminishes altogether. 

Download the report

To learn more about the role of the e-leader — and the approach adopted by some countries in navigating the challenges inherent in the development of this multi-faceted professional — download the GTCI report* in full.

 * The GTCI (Global Talent Competitiveness Index) report ranks world-leading economies according to their ability to retain and develop talent, and covers 103 countries — representing 86.3% of the world’s population and 96.7% of the world’s GDP.

**Adecco Group, The Workforce Revolution, 2013