Ways Recruiting Can Help Succession Planning
Kevin Wheeler (firstname.lastname@example.org),
President and Founder of Global Learning Resources, Inc.
have heard hundreds of complaints from candidates about the increasing efforts
by organizations to find exact fits for narrowly defined positions. While part
of this is done to filter out the few from the many, mostly it is misplaced
effort that will, in the end, reduce your own recruiting effectiveness and that
of your organization.
Harvard Business Review recently quoted a 2002 survey of executives, saying that "nearly
60% of executives admitted they were not cultivating even enough talent to
sustain their current business models or innovate for growth, let alone manage
an unpredictable future." It seems a constant that no matter how much time
and effort organizations spend on succession planning, they end up needing to
find outside talent that has not yet been identified — or even thought
of, in many cases.
of the primary reasons for this is that circumstances change more than
anticipated, and whatever talent was previously identified is no longer
adequate. It is a part of human nature, perhaps, to always try to chart the
future by looking in the rear-view mirror. We imagine worlds that are simple
extensions of the one we inhabit, and we rarely anticipate the amount of change
that will be needed. Along with this goes narrow position definitions and a lack
Taleb, a noted mathematician and essayist, has written extensively about this
phenomenon in other aspects of our lives. For example, we often focus tremendous
energy and time analyzing past action and events, hoping that specific findings
will help prevent a future event.
future events are always so different that we could not have predicted them and
the specific findings tend to be moot. We did not predict, for example, the
dot-com bubble or bust, the Challenger explosion, or September 11. No September
11 commission or Challenger investigation will prevent the next tragedy simply
because these things cannot be predicted. Taleb calls these events "black
black swan is an outlier," he writes, "an event that lies beyond the
realm of normal expectations. Most people expect all swans to be white because
that's what their experience tells them; a black swan is by definition a
surprise. Nevertheless, people tend to concoct explanations for them after the
fact, which makes them appear more predictable, and less random, than they are.
Our minds are designed to retain, for efficient storage, past information that
fits into a compressed narrative. This distortion, called the hindsight bias,
prevents us from adequately learning from the past."
times of rapid corporate change, perhaps it's time recruiters were placed in a
relationship more central to the succession planning process rather than on the
margins. Many organizations leave recruiters entirely out of the succession
planning process, bringing them in only at the last moment. Even at this point,
the recruiter may be bypassed. For senior-level positions, organizations will
frequently engage a third-party recruiter for privacy reasons or because they
believe the internal staff is either not well-connected enough or too busy to be
are three significant ways that recruiters can add real value to the succession
planning process. First of all, they should provide a competitive analysis of
the labor market. Secondly, they should contribute to the overall talent plan
and offer analyses and projections on a variety of possible staffing scenarios.
Finally, they should create and maintain flexible talent pools.
look at each in more depth.
have mentioned this a hundred times in previous articles and believe it is the
bedrock of future effective recruiting. Every profession needs to have a deep
understanding of its supply chain. Recruiters need to know the general
availability of a range of talent and have a precise estimate of talent depth
and availability, as well as the organization's ability to attract whatever
specific, key talent that may be needed.
means using tools such as Eliyon, the Internet, and proprietary research to draw
these pictures and keep them up to date.
has to make a business case to be involved in talent planning at a corporate,
division, and unit level. Talent scarcity and cost should ensure that no good
talent leaves the organization unless everything has been done to retain it.
first hurdle is to simply identify good talent. This is often a one-dimensional
process of taking a manager's word for who is good or not, but it should in fact
become multi-dimensional, where numerous aspects of quality and performance are
looked at before a decision is made. A person one manager may find annoying,
precocious, or insubordinate might be exactly the right employee in some other
part of the organization. This is where recruiting can play a neutral role,
looking at skills and competencies and recommending a transfer or offering a
second part of talent planning is to combine it with the competitive analysis
data and draw pictures of how scare certain types of skills are in your markets.
The scarcer the talent, the more effort should be expended in retention and
third piece of this planning process should be scenario planning —
putting together, with managers, all sorts of possible futures. The more
possible future directions you can help mangers identify and the more you can
loosely identify the needed talent for each of them, the better you can build
we have put way, way too much emphasis on looking for people with certain
specific skills and talents that have been (or we think might be) successful at
a certain job. We are often dead wrong. Over 30% of American CEOs don't have
MBAs or college degrees, yet if we were asked to write a job description for a
CEO I am certain one of both of these would be requirements (a requirement, by
the way, based on no quantitative data at all). The list of "misfits"
who perform jobs they weren't trained for is very long. Were YOU trained as a
recruiter? How did you get to be in your position and what specific set of
qualifications would make you a great recruiter today? The same set of skills as
those that would have made you good 5, 10, or 15 years ago?
planning should be about scenario planning compared against constantly updated
competitive data, combined with the appreciation that we cannot predict the
skills our firm will need in the future with any accuracy. And that takes us to
the third way recruiters can help succession planning.
we cannot accurately and precisely predict what talent we will need over the
course of even six months, the highest art of modern recruiting is the
constructing, maintaining, and modifying of pools of diverse candidates with a
wide variety of skills, backgrounds, and interests. Coupled with this is the
ability to match these diverse skills to the emerging positions and needs that
ability to do this effectively will really separate amateur recruiters from
professionals. Hiring managers, at a loss to accomplish tough assignments, will
look to the talent experts to help them put together a picture of what a
successful employee should look like.
profiles will have to be based on tests and selection criteria that are far
removed from the guesswork and ordinary interviews we do today. They will
require us to gather performance data from new employees, experiment with
different mixes of skills, and follow up by monitoring productivity and
performance over time and then inputting this back into the mix.
This is by no means an easy or fast
process, but over-reliance on narrow skills definitions, the endless tinkering
that I see going on with job descriptions, and the lack of flexibility on the
part of hiring managers will all impede our economic recovery and the prosperity
of our organizations.
President and Founder of Global Learning Resources, Inc., is a globally-known
speaker, author, columnist, and consultant in human capital acquisition and
development. His extensive career, global client base, and research affiliations
make GLR a leading provider of both strategy and process. GLR focuses on
assisting firms architect human capital strategies. GLR guides firms thorough
comprehensive talent acquisition processes and procedures as well as the
development of talent within organizations of all sizes. GLR can be explored at http://www.glresources.com.