Study points to dissatisfaction with leadership development efforts

Korn Ferry Hay Group study points to dissatisfaction with leadership development efforts and Leaders’ ability to drive strategic change

  • Leaders in Canada say they would throw away half of their current leadership development approach
  • Fifty-four percent rank leadership development ROI as fair to very poor

TORONTO, ON ­— A recent analysis of Canadian business and HR leader responses to a comprehensive global study by the Hay Group division of Korn Ferry (NYSE:KFY) shows a critical need to improve leadership development initiatives.

Canadian Business and HR leaders took part in the survey, which garnered 7,500 responses from across the globe. Their responses generally mirrored responses from other parts of the world.

The largest percentage of respondents said their most important leadership development priority was developing leaders to drive strategic change. However, only 15 percent said they were confident they had the right leadership capabilities in place to execute their strategy, and only 19 percent were confident that their leadership team demonstrated the behaviors needed to successfully deliver on strategic business priorities.

“The best thought-out business strategy will fail miserably if the leaders within an organization don’t have the skills to make it come to fruition,” said Dennis Baltzley, Senior Client Partner and Global Head of Leadership Development Solutions, Korn Ferry Hay Group. “Effective leadership development is the key to helping leaders have the knowledge and training necessary to drive change.”

Survey respondents in Canada voiced their dissatisfaction with the outcomes of their leadership development programs, with 54 percent ranking their leadership development ROI as only fair to very poor. Also, when asked if they were able to completely start over with leadership development programming, 55 percent of North American respondents said that they would throw out at least half of their current approach in pursuit of improved outcomes.

“Many leadership development initiatives fail because they are simply a series of programs instead of a comprehensive approach that ties directly back into the business strategy,” said Stu Crandell, Senior Vice President, Korn Ferry Institute. “We not only focus on the whole person (competencies, experiences, traits and drivers), but also leverage real strategic goals and applicable, on-the-job challenges to augment the relevance and impact of the development journey for individuals, their teams and organizations.

In the study, the vast majority (81 percent) of Canadian respondents said that connecting leadership development with social responsibility efforts positively impacts their company’s overall engagement and performance.

“A growing number of people across all levels want to work for an organization that is aligned with their values and committed to serving the world in a positive way,” said Baltzley. “Linking leadership development to social responsibility helps the individual, the organization and the greater good.”

The study also found that executives may be their own biggest barrier to achieving leadership development success. Respondents, nearly 75 percent of whom were executives, cited a lack of executive sponsorship as the largest barrier to successful implementation of leadership development programs.

“We understand that executives are incredibly busy with business issues, but a focus on development – for themselves and for emerging leaders across their organization – is how successful implementation of organizational strategy can be realized,” said Crandell.

About the Study
Korn Ferry commissioned a comprehensive, global executive survey of views on leadership development in July and August of 2015. The survey generated more than 7,500 responses from 107 countries, 158 of whom were from Canada.

Real World Leadership: North America Edition can be found at

Select Canadian findings

Do you have the right leadership capabilities in place to execute on your organization’s strategic business priorities?

  • Definitely yes -- 15 percent
  • Somewhat yes -- 64 percent
  • Unsure -- 8 percent
  • Somewhat no -- 9 percent
  • Definitely no -- 4 percent

Does your leadership team demonstrate the leadership behaviours needed for your organization to successfully deliver on its strategic business priorities?

  • Definitely yes -- 19 percent
  • Somewhat yes -- 59 percent
  • Unsure -- 9 percent
  • Somewhat no -- 11 percent
  • Definitely no -- 2 percent

Does your organization leverage its corporate and social responsibility agenda to develop leaders?

  • Definitely yes -- 19 percent
  • Somewhat yes 4-- 6 percent
  • Somewhat not -- 29 percent
  • Definitely not -- 6 percent

To what extent as leveraging corporate and social responsibility agendas impacted your company’s overall engagement and performance?

  • A lot -- 19 percent
  • Some -- 62 percent
  • Little 1-- 8 percent
  • None -- 1 percent

How would you describe your return on leadership development?

  • Very good -- 6 percent
  • Good -- 40 percent
  • Fair -- 40 percent
  • Poor -- 14 percent
  • Very poor -- 0 percent

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is the preeminent global people and organizational advisory firm. We help leaders, organizations, and societies succeed by releasing the full power and potential of people. Our nearly 7,000 colleagues deliver services through our Executive Search, Hay Group and Futurestep divisions. Visit for more information.