Succession Management: Let us in. We can help. Sincerely, Recruiting

Nov 10, 2010

In the November Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership, in an article titled “Talent Acquisition as a Tool of Succession Management,” I discuss talent acquisition in the context of succession management programs. I propose that our recruiting leaders are not involved enough in succession planning and the execution of those plans. You’ll get more detail in the Journal, but to summarize: Talent managers and the executive echelon can make much more use of their internal recruiting capability than they currently do. Of course, it wouldn’t be a replacement strategy but simply a way to enhance and augment corporate succession management.

I Like My People, Even if They Don’t Perform!

Talent managers, in the designing, planning, and executing of a given plan, usually restrict themselves to the question: “Who internally can I preserve or develop to replace Jane Smith if she leaves,” and disregard the question “who externally can I attract” for consideration with Jane for that same position.

The implications of not using all available sources in succession management programs and not including talent acquisition as part of the plan (which also means integrating it with workforce planning) is apparent: What can be the greatest strategic competitive advantage in the human resource and human capital management arena is reduced to nothing more than a tactical, possibly irrelevant process, likely documented on a seldom-used Excel sheet.

In a Caliper Corp. survey conducted in 2008, and published (PR Newswire) in November of that same year which was titled “Caliper Survey Finds Hiring People a Daunting Task” researchers found that out of 190 corporate responders across a gamut of different industries, 69% found it to be easier to work with the “’devil they know’” rather than an “’unknown’” and a mere 31% found it to be “harder to manage the people they have than to select new employees.”

This survey and many others just like it show evidence that the bias toward a talent management and executive leadership approach to directing succession management can be caused (partly) by the internal attitudes of the organization. “Let’s replace people from the inside because we know them—or at least plan to do so” — hiring managers might say when they are faced with the issue of succession.

The First Rule of Succession Management: HIPOs! HIPOs! HIPOs!

Succession management comes down to identifying and developing the high potentials. But, if that survey and the ones that mirror it are valid, then it would also apply to the selection of the HIPOs in the succession management program for positions of leadership in the organization. This means that executives and managers (probably unknowingly) assume that “my high potential is different from all the other high potentials in other organizations.” This assumption is not supported.

One must then consider what makes a high potential a high potential if they are to fully analyze the issue of high potentials in the workplace; recruiting leaders need to understand who it is they need to attract and how to attract them. I discuss that also in the Journal.

But this is where the recruiting leader can assist their succession management counterparts–identifying high potentials in other organizations or in their industry and including them as potential replacement candidates for the internal succession management program. Of course, the recruiting leader must assess what makes the external candidates high potentials and align recruiting methods to attract them. If this method is applied, it would augment and supplement succession management activities and bring the strength of succession management to a whole new level.

What we have to communicate to our talent management partners is that no organization has a monopoly on the best talent, or the best development methods, or the best recruitment processes. The best any organization can do is to develop a top-notch comprehensive human resource and talent management system based on sound strategy and superior tactics that are aligned with their internal goals and objectives, and hope that the best talent in the world will choose the organization because of it.

Don’t Worry, We’re Already Doing it—Kind of!

The concept already exists in what is commonly called “passive candidate recruiting.” I simply propose that an organization should recruit passive candidates in a much more strategic fashion, and for purposes of enhancing succession choices. Target high potentials in other organizations proactively and long before they are needed, develop close relationships much earlier than one would in other cases, and then maintain those relationships for prolonged periods of time.

They Might Not Like it, so Get the Buy-in!

Talent acquisition departments must seek out their talent management and executive team member partners and create a real and functional partnership. They must convince their counterparts that internal succession management can be a much more valuable activity for the organization if they were to augment it through the use of highly targeted and well-developed external possibilities. Then, for each key position or key professional, the recruiting team should provide quality alternatives for discussion in the planning phase.

The team then must choose from their combined pool of internal candidates and external possibilities. Clear advantages of this method occur in situations where the internal candidate or candidates who were to succeed their supervisor for a particular position are either unavailable, have also left the organization, or are critically needed elsewhere.

It’s One Big Yellow Submarine, and We’re All in it

Tools and processes of the human resources profession should never be used in silos. Leaders of the recruiting profession always should measure their tactics with respect to their counterparts, and to seek inclusiveness in their methods. Succession management and workforce management are two sides of the same coin. They must work together and not against each other.

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