Leadership problems around the world

Our survey reveals serious gaps in leadership across the globe. Executives and employees agree that leaders at their firms are ill-equipped to manage global, diverse workforces, and companies aren’t doing what it takes to ensure they are developing future leaders.

But confidence levels vary across regions. As the chart below shoes, survey respondents in North America, Latin America, and Europe tend to be more assured in their leaders’ ability than respondents in Middle East/Africa and Asia Pacific. In fact, only about a quarter of respondents in Middle East/Africa or Asia Pacific say leadership talent is sufficient to drive global growth.

Leadership by region

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, companies are not cultivating leadership within their organizations—and are likely to face challenges in the years ahead as a result. The situation is even more dire in Asia Pacific, where only 10% of employees say their bosses consider leadership ability important.

Leadership ability Octoer 15

For more on the leadership cliff, check out our webinar next Wednesday, October 22, at 10 am PT/1 pm ET—registration details to follow.

The loyalty paradox

Executives say they value loyalty in employees—but the realities in the workplace are more complicated.

Our global surveys reveal misunderstandings between employees and executives over what is most important at work. While there are substantial variances by country, executives overall value loyalty in their employees more than job performance. And while employees believe the ability to learn and be trained quickly is the most important quality to their bosses, executives say the most important quality is a high level of education or institutional training.

Executive survey: What employee attributes are most important to you? Choose top 3.Employee attributes - Oct 13

Executives are not only more likely to rank loyalty among top employee attributes than qualities like diversity and leadership ability, they also cite lack of employee longevity and loyalty as a leading barrier to meeting strategic workforce goals. Despite these concerns, they do not seem to know—or are not focused on—how to engender loyalty, given that in most cases they are not offering the benefits and incentives most important to employees.

But loyalty is a two-way street. Employees focused on career development can show their managers and higher-ups commitment to the company through self-directed learning and other development initiatives. These efforts to learn and grow will show managers when employees are committed to moving up in the company—and in the meantime, they might assuage some fears of obsolescence.

Check out our country fact sheets

After surveying 100 executives and 100 employees in 27 countries, we put together fact sheets that call out specific data points and quotes from the executives we interviewed in each country.

country fact sheet - 1country fact sheet - 2

The fact sheets will tell you how executives and employees from each country answer the surveys differently from their peers around the globe. For example, you’ll see that while only 19% of all executives surveyed say leadership is a top employee attribute, the number is even lower in China, at just 4%.  Another interesting finding: job satisfaction levels are significantly higher in Malaysia, where 57% of employees say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs (compared with just 38%-third of employees worldwide).

You can see all the country fact sheets on our landing page, or download them from the SuccessFactors Workforce 2020 page.

Regional differences in our Workforce 2020 surveys

While the story told by the global results of our survey is clear—companies everywhere are struggling to plan effectively for the workforce of the future—there are important differences at the regional and country levels.

One key difference is in the high-level visibility of people planning. Workforce issues drive strategy at the board level in 70% of firms in Asia Pacific, but only 35% of North American firms. As shown below, responsibility for workforce strategy also varies by region: In North America and Latin America, the COO or CHRO is most likely to have primary responsibility for driving workforce strategy; in Middle East/Africa and Asia Pacific, the CIO is also likely to have this responsibility.


Respondents from different regions also have different priorities and concerns about key issues. For example, 57% of Asia Pacific executives say Millennials entering the workforce are a top concern, but only 36% in North America say so (a divergence explained by the epic generational shifts in lifestyle and economic opportunity that are transforming large swaths of Asia). What’s more, perceptions of Millennials also vary greatly by country. Nearly three-quarters of Japanese executives say Millennials are interested in quality of life over career path, while under one-third of Mexican executives say this is true.

You can read about more the regional variations in our research report and think pieces to follow. You can also attend our webinars, which we’ll update you on here over the next few months.


Millennials are different, but not as different as companies think

Executives are concerned about Millennials entering the workforce, yet they aren’t making any special plans for managing them. Although 51% of executives say Millennials entering the workforce significantly affects workforce strategy, fewer than one-third of executives say they are giving special attention to their particular wants and needs.

And perhaps they don’t need to: There are many myths about what Millennials want most from work—which is not so different from what non-Millennials want.

Millennial myths Oct 6

But while Millennials have many of the same wants and needs at work as their older coworkers, they do need be managed differently, in terms of feedback and development. Nearly one-third of Millennials say they expect more feedback on their performance than they currently receive—and they want it more often than non-Millennials.

You can read more about Millennials in our research report, and this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Managing tomorrow’s workforce

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about the broad agreement among employees and executives that leadership is lacking, and the ways this dearth of leadership ability is impeding progress toward business goals.

Leadership October 3

As the chart above shows, just half of executives say leadership at their companies is able to effectively manage talent, and even fewer are prepared to lead a global or diverse workforce—a challenge that will become increasingly important as globalization and a growing number of contingent employees change the nature of work. Companies without talent to manage workforces across continents, in and out of the office, and on and off the payroll will miss out on the growth opportunities realized by those who are ready for these shifts.

Check out this recent Forbes article by Susan Galer, which expands on our research findings and notes that the survey results should be a catalyst for change among companies looking to address tomorrow’s talent needs.

Join us today for a webinar on the future of work

Today at 1 pm ET/10 am PT, join Ed Cone of Oxford Economics, Anne Dacy of IBM, and David Swanson of SAP for a discussion around the future of work.

We’ll be talking about our research findings and focusing on how the survey results are different for executives and employees in North America. Listen in to learn about:

  • The increasing role of contingent, non-payroll employees
  • Gaps in knowledge and resources for managing tomorrow’s diverse workforce
  • An urgent need for HR-specific analytic tools, skillsets, and data
  • Insufficient board-level understanding of strategic workforce issues

Click here to register for the webinar.