The firm's 2015 Leadership Survey found that just 27% of organisations have a leadership strategy that includes a business case, and 81% do not measure the return on investment for leadership development.
There is also a disconnect between the leadership development tools businesses believe are effective and the ones they tend to use. Online learning was rated the least effective leadership development tool, but was used by 40% of companies. Face-to-face learning also scored very low, rated 11th worst in a list of 12, but was used by 63% of firms.
At the other end of the scale, the majority of organisations are not exploiting the top-rated interventions (in terms of effectiveness), with overseas assignments used by 40% and rotational experiences utilised by 36%.
Mercer partner Stuart Turnbull said the research highlights that the chain for leadership development has broken.
“What this means is that it’s difficult for companies to connect the business imperatives for leadership development, what good leadership looks like, how development should occur, and how to measure it all,” he said. “While organisations recognise that current methods are not effective we see these tactics repeated because they are familiar, because they may play to a leader’s desires, because they may be more visible or because they are the simplest to roll out.”
Karen Ward, research director at research advisory firm Aditi Unlimited, said that the results are not surprising. “Compared to the research we conducted with the Corporate Research Forum a year ago, it looks like things are getting worse rather than better,” she told HR magazine.
“We found the main issue was a disconnect between leadership and development professionals and what they are interested in, and what is right for the organisation. For example, the business might need more line manager capability. However, when we look at leadership development there’s no desire to put that into action."