Executive Briefing: Top 25 Companies for Leaders

Why are some employers better than others at developing leaders?

By Dori Meinert Jan 7, 2015
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010215_cover.jpgInadequate leadership is often cited as one of the reasons companies aren’t prepared to meet today’s economic challenges. So when it comes to developing leaders, it helps to learn from the best.

HR consulting company Aon Hewitt recently released its list of the top 25 companies for leaders. These “leaders in leaders” share five key characteristics, according to Lorraine Stomski, head of Aon Hewitt’s leadership consulting practice. The top companies are more likely to:

1. Assess the whole leader early in his or her career.

“They assess in a very holistic manner, and the assessment fuels the development,” Stomski says. “Instead of using discrete kinds of assessments, they’re looking at their experiences, competencies and values and seeing if that’s a good fit.”

With that data, companies are able to craft development plans earlier in the individual’s development cycle.

2. Encourage leaders to understand their own strengths and weaknesses.

The employers use 360-degree evaluations to build self-awareness in their leaders. Companies that use these evaluations perform better financially than those that don’t, Stomski says. The greatest impact is seen in middle management.

3. Build resilience in their leaders.

Top companies recognize that having multiple perspectives and ideas drives better problem-solving and innovation, so they emphasize inclusive cultures. In fact, 96 percent of the top 25 companies have a culture of inclusion, compared to just 79 percent of the remaining 155 companies that participated in the survey.

“We saw a lot of top companies focusing on ‘How do we create environments where we can fail fast, learn from that failure, pivot, experiment, try again?’ ” Stomski notes.

Other companies chose to move talent around the organization to give people broader exposure and different experiences, Stomski says.

Some offered mindfulness training to help leaders focus in an uncertain and complex world.

Still others wanted their leaders to understand how to overcome difficult circumstances by putting them in environments or communities where people have had to struggle. For example, one company had executives spend time on a Native American reservation to gain a different perspective.

4. Choose engaging leaders.

The companies are focusing on developing leaders who know how to engage their employees, are stabilizers, demonstrate versatility, and connect well with people and events inside and outside their organization.

5. Focus on sustainability.

They understand that leadership development is not a “one and done.” Instead, “great leadership is built through sustainable programs that are very explicitly linked to business strategy,” Stomski says.

Since Aon Hewitt’s last study on this topic three years ago, more companies are holding leaders accountable for developing other leaders within their teams, Stomski says. They also expect leaders to participate in building the organization’s brand to help attract and retain exceptional talent.

Aon Hewitt researchers surveyed 180 companies about their leadership practices and compared their financial performance over five years with that of industry peers. They interviewed top HR professionals and senior executives from 41 finalists.

The top 25 companies were chosen by a global team of independent judges made up of authors, professors and business journalists who reviewed the survey and interview data, companies’ reputations and financial performance, leadership culture, and values.

Top Companies for Leaders in 2014

1. General Electric Co., U.S.
2. International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), U.S.
3. Hindustan Unilever Ltd., India
4. General Mills Inc., U.S.
5. ICICI Bank Ltd., India
6. The Procter & Gamble Co., U.S.
7. Colgate-Palmolive Co., U.S.
8. 3M, U.S.
9. Novartis AG, Switzerland
10. Mahindra Group, India
11. McDonald’s Corp., U.S.
12. Intel Corp., U.S.
13. Whirlpool Corp., U.S.
14. ArcelorMittal, Luxembourg
15. WEG SA, Brazil
16. Deere & Co., U.S.
17. Eli Lilly and Co., U.S.
18. DBS Group Holdings Ltd., Singapore
19. Royal Dutch Shell plc, the Netherlands
20. Singapore Telecommunications Ltd., Singapore
21. Sonoco Products Co., U.S.
22. Sime Darby Berhad, Malaysia
23. Cargill Inc., U.S.
24. American Express Co., U.S.
25. Raytheon Co., U.S.

Source: Aon Hewitt.

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