Recruiting from within
The wisdom of an internally based succession planning process
With Baby Boomers retiring in large numbers and job opportunities expanding, the talent pool is shrinking. Additionally, the belt-tightening measures taken during economic downturns have eliminated a lot of people that might have been eligible for promotion.
The general wisdom is that offering jobs to external candidates may not be the most effective way to fill positions. There are those who believe all organizations must hire, not just for today’s needs, but also with a look toward the future.
Grooming internal candidates ensures continuity, enhances skill levels and helps the transition process appear more seamless because training begins long before an employee is promoted. Someone starting anew is far more expensive, during the interim, than a person who holds the history and institutional knowledge that is the foundation of a well-functioning organization.
Recruiting from within means that employers are not waiting until a position becomes open to search for talent. Succession planning allows choice from a talent pool that is already highly qualified – now and for the future. The benefit to the employee is that he or she is initially hired into an environment that values her or his growth, provides opportunities to develop new skills and abilities, and increases the chances for job security. Such an atmosphere is exciting because of its commitment to learning and development, even though the promise of higher positions can’t always be assured.
Though the goal is to fill future key leadership positions, this model can work for all levels of the organization. Imagine everyone embracing a learning model tied to a possible career path. Employees are ready for new roles and, when someone leaves, can easily step in with confidence. The message is “we care about your future as well as the future of the organization.”
While the following is an essential process toward implementing a succession planning program, the by products are numerous:
1. Identify the organization’s long-term goals, priorities, and objectives, tied to your strategic plan.
2. Assess how services are provided now and might be provided in the future – and engage in selective hiring that looks at employee potential as well as present expertise.
3. Establish a set of competencies that are considered desirable in high-potential employees and create the training tools needed to achieve them.
4. Identify your workforce needs and establish a process that recruits employees toward developing their skills, preparing them for advancement, and mentoring them throughout their tenure. Share key position descriptions (present and future) and the requisite skills required for success.
5. Develop a communication strategy that clearly describes possible career paths and available training and competency building, as well as the process that will be used to select a successor. This requires an assessment of current competency gaps, coaching, and evaluation procedures.
6. Possible candidates should be assigned mentors who can guide and assist their development. Mentors are responsible for supporting them, as well as making sure they have access to knowledge, skill development and professional experience.
7. Put measurement tools in place to assess progression, the meeting of criteria, appropriate training, and expectations.
8. Be sure the process is dynamic, keeping up with changes and new information as they arise, and tailored to meet the specific needs of your organization.
9. Utilize expertise from all levels. Those people who do the job every day know what is needed to solve the problems and be successful. Include a representative group in the designing of the plan.
10. Ensure that the process has wide support and is constantly emphasized in day-to-day activity.
11. Review your process on an ongoing basis to be certain that the plan that is in place still makes sense.
The advantages to committing to a succession-planning program are numerous. Employee satisfaction and retention are bound to increase because employees are more attracted to a supportive learning environment that delivers the message “those who work for us are valued and worth nurturing.” There will be a consistent supply of well-trained, experienced and motivated people who are ready to step into key positions while performing their present jobs with skill and commitment. They are often less resistant to change because they are part of the plan and more committed to continuous improvement. If they are going to stay, they have a stake in the organization’s success. And, finally, the organization will be seen as a challenging, stimulating place to work. New hires will quickly acquire the energy and excitement manifest by present employees and the benefit to customers is immeasurable.
If this is not convincing enough, consider the peace of mind created by the knowledge that the future will be in good hands.
Gerri King, Ph.D., president of Concord-based Human Dynamics Associates, is a social psychologist, organizational consultant and author of the “Duh! Book of Management and Supervision: Dispelling Common Leadership Myths. She can be reached through gerriking.com.