According to the Global Top Companies for Leaders study, conducted by Hewitt Associates, in partnership with The RBL Group, and Fortune, when comparing the Global Top Companies with more than 500 companies around the world, Hewitt identified one distinguishing characteristic that sets them apart from their peers—even during the economic downturn; building leadership.
The firms identified as “Global Top Companies” remained committed to building leadership capability within their organizations, according to the study. “In other words, tighter budgets and fewer resources forced these organizations to think and act smarter and more creatively about what really mattered when it came to leadership—but they didn’t lose focus,” according to an announcement about the study.
Since the study’s inception in 2002, Hewitt says it has identified a set of standard leadership characteristics embodied by companies that possess a winning leadership culture. According to Hewitt, leaders at these organizations are passionate and committed. Their leadership programs are practical, relevant and aligned with business goals. Top Companies have an intense focus on talent, and they are deliberate about who they hire, who they coach, who they promote, and who they reward. Finally, leadership development at these organizations is an institutionalized practice and mindset.
In addition to this standard set of leadership traits, Hewitt’s research identified four other critical areas that it says set the 2009 Global Top Companies apart from other companies around the world:
Leadership remains a critical priority—in good or bad economic times. According to Hewitt’s research, all companies ranked cost pressure as the single most pressing challenge over the next three years. Stabilizing cash and debt positions and balancing immediate cost pressures with long-term growth were key priorities in 2009, and they will remain a top priority as the global economy begins to recover. However, Global Top Companies also plan to have an intense focus on ensuring they do not abandon key leadership and talent efforts in favor of shortsighted goals.
Succession planning is deliberate and consistent. All Global Top Companies have a formal succession planning process in place, compared to only 72% of all other companies. Almost all (95%) have developed succession plans specific to the CEO or an emergency plan, compared to just under two-thirds (63%) of all other companies. Succession plans at Global Top Companies are also more likely to offer specific elements to ensure the capabilities and depth of their pipelines are strong; 84% of Global Top Companies identify a leader’s current performance against his/her future potential, compared to just 64% of all other companies. In addition, 88% offer 360-degree feedback, compared to just over half (56%) of all other companies.
Leaders clearly understand what is expected of them as leaders. Leaders at the Global Top Companies understand what is expected of them and are held accountable for their actions, according to Hewitt. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of Global Top Companies rate the ability to effectively develop other leaders as one of the top five leadership skills most critical to their firm’s success, nearly twice (39%) the level at other companies. More than three-quarters (76%) also rate “demonstrating company missions and values” as one of the top five most important factors in determining strong leadership performance, compared to 57% of all other companies.
Developing the next generation of leaders is a priority. Hewitt’s research shows that Global Top Companies recognize that the ability to attract, assess and develop leaders across roles, functions and geographies is a necessary and differentiating strategy. All Global Top Companies formally identify high-potential talent, compared to 68% for all other companies. All of them also have formal processes for developing leaders, (compared to 77% of other companies) and use leaders as teachers and mentors (compared to just 55% of all other companies) in these efforts).
Global Top Companies for Leaders
The Top 25 Global Companies for Leaders was selected by an independent judges panel, consisting of “world-renowned authors, professors, business executives and executive coaches,” according to the announcement:
- The Procter & Gamble Company
- General Mills, Inc.
- McKinsey & Company
- ICICI Bank Ltd.
- McDonald's Corporation
- General Electric Company
- Titan Cement Company S.A.
- China Mobile Communications Corporation - Shanghai Ltd.
- Hindustan Unilever
- Natura Cosmeticos S.A.
- Colgate Palmolive
- TNT N.V.
- Deere & Company
- Whirlpool Corporation
- 3M Company
- Cargill, Incorporated
- Olam International
- Eli Lilly and Company
- PepsiCo, Inc.
- American Express Company
- Lockheed Martin Corporation
- Intel Corporation
- Infosys Technology
- FedEx Corporation
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