Leaders face the most demanding business conditions in a generation

By Businesses equip for $3 billion workforce initiative  Monday, 23 May 2011  Features

The Federal Budget's $3 billion workforce training and participation initiatives to address Australia's skills shortages may go to waste if business leaders aren't properly equipped for an inflow of new employees.

Rosemary Howard, Executive Director and Conjoint Professor, AGSM Executive Programs, applauds the move to invest in building frontline technical skills, but warns that workforce participation initiatives are best matched with an investment in leadership capabilities over the long term.

"Australian businesses will take on hundreds of thousands of new skilled and semi-skilled wo​​rkers in the most demanding business conditions in a generation. Building the leadership skills of managers, executives and non-executive directors at individual, team and organisation-wide levels is critical in addressing these challenges," says Howard.

Recently, the Government has acknowledged the need for better management capabilities to promote competitiveness in Australia:

Last week, Labor rejected the Green's proposed cap on executive pay to prevent an exodus of Australia's most innovative leaders to overseas markets In March, the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act was introduced to strengthen the potential of women in the workplace

"In a world fraught with uncertainty, we need policies that encourage diversity, support our values of mateship and teamwork and enable both employees and employers to engage in a complex and evolving marketplace," says Howard.

"Australians sometimes don't realise the strength of our global competition. Online shopping, economic pressures and emerging markets such as China and India mean that we need to educate ourselves to be more competitive.

"We need a breadth of interest and thought in all aspects of business and cultural intelligence. This will enable us to have the talent to build strong market relationships, and win in a highly competitive world. Australia's future success is dependent on gaining this broad thought and engagement."

An international perspective

Last week, IBM released its 2011 CIO study which supports Ms Howard's call for strong leadership in the face of an evolving global environment. The study encourages establishing a culture that refuses to let complexity be a burden while eliminating bureaucracy and inefficiencies internally and across the value chain.

"Executives are telling us that the complexity of operating in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world is their primary challenge. And, a surprising number of them told us that they feel ill-equipped to succeed in this drastically different world," says an IBM spokesperson.

Howard says: "IBM's studies provide great insights into top line management issues and it's reassuring to see that their research aligns with the direction of our programs."