Forest for the Trees – A Talent Manager’s Cardinal Error
Jan 30, 2019
We’ve all heard the story where several departments of a large corporation were left in the lurch with a sudden exit of the CEO or another senior leader. As much as we point fingers, at the base of every such incident is a talent manager’s strategy gone wrong. Here’s how not to be one of those errants.
Businesses get good people. They thrive, they show sustained growth and every stakeholder is happy. For a while. Then the bomb drops, usually camouflaged as a memo – a key figure in leadership is leaving, and suddenly it’s all helter-skelter. And helter-skelter it has every right to be, because all too often the people strategy professional did something they should never have done or should ever do again. They overlooked the need for a succession plan.
TALENT MANAGEMENT MYOPIA
Talent managers are almost always at the forefront when senior leadership exits with an exasperated board sighing “how could you not see this coming?” And that is exactly our point. How do you maintain a long term vision when you’re not really staring through the lenses of a pair of spectacles, but looking at the entire workforce through a kaleidoscope, trying to establish patterns and continuously set roadmaps and milestones for your own business processes?
The answer may not be as complicated as it sounds. Succession Planning is one of the key functions of the modern strategic talent manager and with a little bit of foresight and some skills in framing contingent strategies, the entire process of transitioning to a new business leader or manager can be smooth, efficient and rewarding.
KEY RESPONSIBILITIES OF TALENT MANAGERS FOR SUCCESSFUL SUCCESSION PLANNING
Tame the Technology Medusa
Fairly apt, the analogy – stare too long and you turn into stone, incapable of mindfulness and prioritizing your resource allocation in succession planning. While most talent managers are limited to the configuration and use of the enterprise HRMS, the farsighted identify the hidden capabilities of the monster and turn it into their weapon. Distributed learning systems and Personalized LMSs can, through several live learning and mentoring platforms, ensure that your chosen top performing and high potential front runners have the required skills and chutzpah to step into their bosses’ shoes if the need so arises at any time. Furthermore, getting your entire organization to score and gamify the succession planning process is a surefire way to identify your upcoming stars. Your learning and development, alongside orientation can take place in much the same way. A word of caution, though; there has to be a personalized touch in the communication and follow up from the talent manager in order to ensure that the psychological blocks of stepping into a superior’s role remains a matter of fact, business decision devoid of any prejudice or bias.
The War on the Frontlines
You may be answering to the board on their cushy armchairs, but the real business seldom happens at the general’s camp. It’s out there in the frontlines. In sales, production, procurement, finance – the very fabric of business is evolving rapidly with each passing day. It’s important that the talent managers remain the common thread throughout the entire organization at all times; equilibrium is key. As soon as you identify traits of the star performers, these reports have to be transmitted seamlessly to Learning and Development or in some cases, coaches and mentors. Remember, replication is key and a single star performer can not only transform the business growth story, but also be the specimen zero for replication of the same success among others.
From The Frontlines to the Board
There is a reason why training, learning, and leadership development are different terms. In the era of plenty for the talented employees, even ghosting at the workplace has become an increasingly growing phenomenon. The skilled talent manager is expected to execute successful and seamless succession plans at all levels. Some organizations identify leadership potential right at the initial stages of an employee’s tenure, and then ensure adequate grooming and mentoring to prepare them for leadership of the future.
In its simplest expression, succession planning and keeping a constant contingent skilled talent at hand for any role is basically a personality and skills assessment exercise that culminates with the transfer of the required skillsets from the skilled to the deserving. Robust succession planning will save the organization from shocking exits and terminations, and solidify the Talent Management Leader’s role as the catalyst for positive change and continuity in sustainable growth of the business. Like the wise man said, “don’t chase stars, create your own.”