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Assessment in the Middle East

September 2014

The key challenge facing Middle Eastern companies is how to identify and empower the next generation of leaders who can make their businesses compete on the global stage. The purpose of this paper is to pinpoint some of the factors preventing this generational change from happening and to recommend how companies can use the powerful tool of assessment to identify and develop their future leadership talent.

  • Fostering localisation -
    • In developing markets, skills are sometimes inconsistently distributed throughout an organisation. Rigorous objective assessment can provide a highly valuable insight into where skill levels need to be elevated, and how to do so in a way that complies with accelerated localisation programmes.

      Our experience of advising companies in developing markets shows that certain skills are at a premium – for example, strategic thinking, commercial acumen, competitive awareness, executing effective change processes and leading functional teams. What’s more, challenging growth environments call for ‘soft skills’ which help executives to prosper and have the right kind of impact on the business. Technical skills are often a less important component of successful leadership than an ability to influence, interact and collaborate with others.

      In today’s increasingly competitive environment, companies in the Middle East need to form a realistic picture of the capability and potential among their leadership teams. For a business to become best-in-class at a regional or global level it needs to identify where the skills gaps lie and invest in bridging those gaps.

      Our recent assessment experience has shown us that many executives in Middle Eastern companies lack some of the characteristics found in the most successful international executives. These include:

      • International exposure
      • Commercial bottom-line accountability (full P&L responsibility)
      • Ability to change a company’s positioning to gain advantage over competitors
      • Positive attitude towards risk (traditional and often hierarchical leadership models often lead to risk aversion)
      • Individual assertiveness
      • Leadership impact

      By identifying where executives lack depth of experience, where international exposure is limited, or where an aversion to risk may be holding the business back, a company can take positive action to close the gaps. Assessment plays a crucial role in this process. Failure to address the skills deficit among the present generation of senior leadership teams will mean losing ground to international competitors with more experienced and capable teams.

  • The value of assessment -
    • The key to maximizing an organisation’s value is understanding its most critical asset and competitive advantage – its leaders. At the heart of identifying the next generation of management talent lies thorough and objective assessment.

      While most organisations have their own system of appraisals for executives, they are increasingly turning to specialist third parties to conduct executive assessments. They value the objectivity, sound judgment and fresh perspective provided by an experienced assessor, who can determine how suitable individuals are in their current roles, where they need to develop and what additional responsibilities they are ready to take on.

      Over the past decade, Spencer Stuart has developed world-class assessment tools which have brought significant benefits to a wide range of clients globally. These tools enable us to make astute judgments about executives and teams and to assess the potential of future leaders.

  • How our assessment improves your business – and your people -
    • Spencer Stuart’s suite of assessment services offers clear benefits to clients. Two outcomes are guaranteed: First, our rigorous assessment work results in improved company performance as a result of more insightful assessment of leaders’ abilities and potential. Second, your executives will be set on a development path that will improve the contribution they can make to the business and enhance their career prospects.

      A professionally managed assessment process should not only uncover relevant and specific insights into an individual’s strengths, but identify areas to focus on as well. Every executive benefits from knowing where to focus their development and one of the most important aspects of our assessment work is providing employers and executives with constructive suggestions on how individuals can become more effective in their roles.

      Executives who are put through our assessment programme have a wonderful personal development tool at their disposal. We believe that pinpointing an individual’s development needs as well as their strengths is hugely powerful if handled in a sensitive manner and accompanied by practical steps that the individual can take to overcome any deficits. The assessment process is often a catalyst for change, resulting in positive outcomes and transformed careers. We provide personalised development advice and employees come away with a strong feeling that they are benefitting from the experience.

  • When assessment works best -
    • Companies in the Middle East face a wide range of “trigger” events – such as acquisitions, competitive pressures, disruptive technologies and changes in strategy – which result in the need to for a thorough assessment of management capability.

      Examples of recent assessment projects we have undertaken for clients in the region include:

      1. A large regional company needed to audit the talent that it had acquired over a period of time. The objective was to determine the coherence of the top team and the value that each of the individuals brought to it.

      2. A large state-owned enterprise was in the process of re-evaluating its position in the market. It had grown quickly and needed a better understanding of the quality of talent inside the organisation, to identify strengths and development opportunities, and identify where they needed to supplement senior talent.

      3. A large family-owned group was in the process of restructuring its operating model. It needed to assess the effectiveness and fit of its top team in the context of a new business model.

  • Questions that assessment can help you answer -
    • The trigger events described above force companies to consider a host of critical questions, for example:
      • Do we have the right management capabilities?
      • Do we have the right people in the right roles?
      • Who are the strategic enablers?
      • How can we support the development of our leaders?
      • How do we retain our most critical leaders?
      • Are we prepared for senior executive succession?
      • How can we improve team effectiveness?
      • How do we attract the best talent?

      The answers to these questions require the right information on which to base critical decisions about people. Our advanced assessment tools are capable of:

      • Distinguishing between executives’ past achievement and their future potential
      • Identifying developmental gaps
      • Helping create the right plans to close the gaps.

Learn more about the power of Spencer Stuart's Executive Assessment Services to help assess the qualities of senior executives and provide the developmental tools that prepare them for leadership roles.