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Dean of LBS: Focusing On Talent Development In A Changing World

March 24, 2023

Dean François Ortalo-Magné in the Dubai Campus of the London Business School.

In a discussion with The HR Observer, François Ortalo-Magné, the ninth Dean of London Business School (LBS) spoke about the ongoing changes within the business landscape and its effects on Talent Management. 

He explained that within the region, there are organisations very committed to growing local talent and local talent eager to contribute to the transformation of their countries. 

During the interview, he spoke about the reshuffling within the business landscape and how leaders of these organisations must pause to reflect on next steps and shepherd progress.

Q. Let’s discuss the global redundancies in the Tech sector. Is that a trend or is that actually a necessary change in how businesses are going to function moving forward?

I think it’s more of a reshuffle that’s happening. As the industry evolves, organisations are recognising the importance of investing in their workforce and developing their employees’ skills to stay relevant and competitive. At LBS, we’ve noticed an increase in demand for programmes that focus on leadership development and talent management, particularly from this region. There seems to be a real push to unleash people’s talent and support them in their growth.

This shift towards a more people-centric approach is an exciting development because it reflects a growing recognition that an organisation’s success is directly tied to the success of its community of employees. By investing in their employees’ growth and development, organisations not only improve their bottom line but also create a more engaged and productive community.

Q. How to develop the talent then when we have different people who are building new kinds of businesses and at the same time, we have people that are still functioning in the current model. So how can businesses or how can leaders actually make sure that they are bringing the best out of their people?

Developing talent is a critical component of any successful organisation. It’s not just a matter of providing training and resources, but also a mindset that values learning, innovation and adaptability. By taking a multi-faceted approach that focuses on individual development, entrepreneurial advancement and organisational transformation, leaders can bring out the best in their people and drive success in a rapidly changing world.

Firstly, individuals who are seeking to advance their careers benefit from training in areas such as strategy, finance and leadership. This includes not just technical skills, but also so-called soft skills such as communication and collaboration. Ambitious organisations go beyond this; they invest in employee training and development, not only to enhance their employees’ skills, but also to foster a culture of learning and a growth mindset.

Secondly, there is a growing need for entrepreneurial advancement. An entrepreneurial mindset and capability is a key driver of innovation and economic growth, and many organisations could use more of this a mindset among their employees. This involves encouraging creativity, risk-taking and a willingness to challenge the status quo. Leaders can achieve this by providing resources such as mentorship, funding and networking opportunities.

Finally, organisations need to focus on transformation to adapt to a changing world. This includes elements such as customer-centricity, lifetime value of the partnership, empowering women and addressing the imperatives of the world around us. Leaders must be proactive in identifying and responding to their changing context and they must be willing to take bold action. This requires a strategic approach that involves collaboration, experimentation, and a willingness to embrace change and make choices.

Q. When we talk about transforming the organisations, is that what we do? Is that how we define leaders? 

Creating an environment for their people to feel respected and supported to contribute their best is what leaders do. Leaders must be in tune with the imperatives and opportunities of the world around them. Coming out of the pandemic, everyone, not just businesses, is facing constantly evolving challenges, such as the climate crisis and the increasing prominence of AI. While standing still was never a good strategy, it is more evident than ever that businesses and organisations in general must adapt to thrive and to drive the change we all aspire to as human beings sharing the same planet. 

Q. How can businesses adapt this quickly to everything that is happening?

Take the time to pause, reflect and think twice.

Paradoxically, running, running and running won’t do it. Taking time to pause, to give our individual brains and our teams the time and the space to wonder and wander is important to let innovative solutions emerge. In today’s fast-paced environment, leaders should not be constantly rushing. You are likely to feel more confident and thankful when you have given the necessary consideration – or rather considerations – to overcome a challenge or to implement change. 

Q. When people come to you, how do you advise them to try to see what their employees actually want to do to push their organisations forward?

Understanding what the employees seek, and how leaders can channel that energy to the benefit of the collective purpose, is crucial. The pandemic has prompted many individuals to soul search and ask themselves what they want their lives to be about. Listening to employees’ views and opinions and understanding their aspirations can help the collective purpose be built together. It is vital that organisations keen to keep and grow their best talent invest in employees.

At LBS, we understand that organisations need to keep their employees engaged to drive impact and success. We know that without the contribution of employees, even the most innovative and well-conceived strategies will fall flat. Therefore, it is important to take time to understand what motivates employees and what they want to achieve in their roles. The opportunity is there for leaders to develop a collective culture with their employees together, seeking to understand the perspective of their employees and leverage their energy to achieve the goals they all share.

In my experience, organisations that fail to invest in their employees or motivate them can experience a vicious cycle that can ultimately lead to their demise. When organisations fail to retain top talent, they lose their competitive edge and, in some cases, it can happen very quickly. The best talent is always in demand and employees will seek-out organisations that invest in their professional development, provide a sense of purpose, and promote a healthy work-life balance.

Q. Speaking of talent moving, it seems like everybody is fighting for certain talent nowadays. How can businesses attract the right talent or how can businesses attract the best talent for themselves?

In the current market, including here in Dubai, we see successful organisations offering growth opportunities to attract the best employees. Many companies are seeking transformation, but employees also want to know that their growth matters to their employer and they want this to be demonstrated. As Dean of LBS, I have been involved in conversations in the region where it is clear that I have been brought in to signal the organisation’s commitment to the growth of its employees. 

Increasingly, we see a greater understanding from companies that they should invest in employee development programs and provide opportunities for career growth. 

Q. How effective is that, would you think people actually believe their leaders?

Research demonstrates again and again that it is essential for leaders to be authentic. Employees will not trust or respect a leader who is not genuine. Leaders must convey their commitment to their team through actions rather than just words. It is important for leaders to be honest and for employees to feel that they have a leader who is invested in their success and who nurtures an environment where they can thrive. 

Q. What makes people stay in an organisation, instead of building their own ventures?

People stay in an organisation because they believe that they can make a greater impact and have a more meaningful experience than they would by themselves or elsewhere. This belief is reinforced when organisations demonstrate a commitment to their employees’ growth and development. Leaders must respect their employees and provide opportunities for them to make a difference within the organisation. At the heart of this is respect and attention to the growth of employees, walking the learning journey with them. 

Since the pandemic, it has also become essential to re-define a clear purpose and to ensure that everyone understands how their work contributes to achieving that purpose. In practical terms, this means that employees need to feel that their time at work is well-spent and that they are making a meaningful contribution.

Q. This region is trying to attract global talent despite there still being challenges within the region, despite all the reforms, etc. The region itself is very challenging to live in. Is that important anymore or people are just looking at where they can get properly compensated and valued despite any challenges that’s happening around.

Research shows that compensation is and remains an important factor to employees, not just in this region but globally. At the same time, we are seeing people place a greater importance on their wellbeing at work and at home. Employees are looking for benefits that can enhance their work-life or harmony, allowing them to better manage their personal and professional aspirations. 

Increased job satisfaction and a better overall quality of life is often what now attracts employees to a company. Providing your employees with opportunities for professional development, flexible work arrangements, and employee wellness programs can help to make them feel valued, supported and engaged in their work, which can lead to higher levels of performance and impact. 

The region remains an attractive destination for global talent. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have articulated a clear vision, and the governments of both countries are committed to that vision. There is a sense of momentum in the region, which is attracting both talent and companies. Additionally, there is a wealth of local talent eager to participate in the transformation of those countries and many organisations are demonstrating a real commitment to unleashing this talent. At LBS, we are proud to be a part of this movement towards growth and transformation in the region. 

Author
Omnia Al Desoukie

Editor, The HR Observer

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