Leadership still a top priority for South-east Asian firms

Leadership remains the top priority for South-east Asian companies amid the increasing need for organisations to restructure, according to a recent survey.

It found that 97 per cent of South-east Asian business and human resources (HR) leaders polled cited leadership above nine other key issues they face.

But it also reported that there is a 60 per cent capability gap between the importance of leadership development and the perceived readiness of organisations to deal with it.

This gap has widened, increasing from the 41 per cent recorded in a similar survey last year.

The divide is due to businesses' continued focus on improving shareholder value, rather than on human capital, said audit firm Deloitte, which commissioned the survey.

It polled 213 HR and business leaders in South-east Asia and more than 7,000 across the world.

The survey found that 97 per cent of South-east Asian business and HR leaders polled cited leadership above nine other key issues they face.

Ms Nicky Wakefield, human capital consulting leader for Deloitte South-east Asia, said: "With advancing digital technologies, changing workforce demographics, and the speed of innovation, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to... drive an employee-centric culture to remain relevant and competitive in the marketplace."

Mr Indranil Roy, head of Deloitte Leadership in South-east Asia, said that furthermore, companies need to "break away from traditional structures and mindsets towards leadership development".

The survey ranked other key trends this year, including organisational design, employee learning, workplace culture, using digital HR applications and data to predict work performance.

HR capabilities and using freelancers or smart technology - also known as the gig economy - were also among the trends identified.

The survey's global results show that companies rank the need to redesign their organisational structures as the main priority, a trend that came in third in importance in South-east Asia.

More than half of South-east Asian businesses feel that they are not ready to address this issue, despite 91 per cent believing it to be key for future development.

The results for Singaporean respondents were similar to those of the region, with leadership first, followed by employee engagement and organisational design.

The survey also found that most Singapore companies are inadequately prepared to develop current or future leaders with only 6 per cent having a strong succession-planning programme.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2016, with the headline 'Leadership still a top priority for South-east Asian firms'. Print Edition | Subscribe