Resources: Blog Post

August 26, 2015

Succession sucks

Ian's Morning Musing image

This week I was speaking with one of our SCNetwork members who had just been interviewed for a senior “transformational change” role in a large institution. The candidate’s background, for all intents and purposes, suitably fit the job description. The technical boxes were all ticked off, at least sufficiently so that it had passed through the sophisticated screening technologies that were being employed. As one recruitment specialist reminded me recently, “we need some sort of automated screening process in place with hundreds of resumes coming in for one job. We are simply too busy to review every resume.” Time is money.

Anyway, our member had suitably prepared for the interview, based upon the job description, and was ready for the interview with the executive overseeing the change project. It very quickly became clear though that the questions being asked did not seem to match the requirements identified in the job description. Frustratingly, all those well-prepared success stories that matched the job description were being wasted as the interview progressed. The executive was undoubtedly delving to gain insights from our candidate, and after some good, frank dialogue, our candidate felt comfortable enough to express his confusion with the apparent disconnect between the role in print and the direction of the conversation. The executive’s response was “we are learning more and more about what the role should be by conducting these interviews and we think it is morphing into something somewhat different.” I think the executive’s honesty is noteworthy, but it speaks volumes about why succession management gets such a “bum rap.” I fully appreciate “agility” is the ability to adjust on the fly and address changing demands and needs, but if this is widespread, how good can succession management practices be with the ground constantly moving?

If you think my story is an exception, start to consider why 84 per cent of organizations participating in a recent Brandon Hall Group study reported having a lack of candidates in the pipeline ready to assume open and critical positions. There is little doubt, great talent that is both “agile” and “resilient,” and who can get results with his/her partners, is tough to find/grow.

More alarmingly, just over a quarter of the participating organizations indicated that they have a ready-and-willing successor for 10 per cent or less, of open, critical roles. Another seven per cent said they have no one groomed and ready. Worse yet, the report stated that organizations were not confident that they had the right practices in place, nor knew what the best practices are, to identify and develop tomorrow’s most qualified leaders.

Anther study emanating from IED and Stanford University,finding somewhat similar results, made one of its primary recommendations the mapping of present and future operating and leadership skills required of each executive position. EY have documented that companies lack robust succession plans to identify the next generation of leaders. Clearly, this is easier said than done.

In the past couple of weeks, I have made reference to the upcoming challenges for the HR function itself, but the door is open for us to step up and be an integral facilitator in deciding how organizations need to be prepared and armed to address rapid change. So the opportunity is there, and as my SCNetwork colleague has found out personally, perhaps the specifications provided by executives in the recruitment process need to be challenged from the very outset.

How do you interpret these studies? Doesn’t it suggest HR is not equipped to step up?
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Ian Hendry headshoptIan Hendry is the president of the Strategic Capability Network. In his Morning Musings, he provides insight on issues facing today’s business leaders and looks at subject matter related to upcoming SCNetwork events. He is also VP HR & Administration at Interac Assocation.

Filed under: employment, hiring, morning musing, succession Tagged: employment, hiring, morning musing, succession
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