August 2017 Issue
The talent pool – those employees identified as likely to attain a leadership role and ascend the ranks to an organisation’s upper echelons – is a succession planning tool that needs to be constantly monitored and consistently replenished for it to be truly effective.
Not to be underestimated, the need to keep tabs on the best candidate for a given role – be it a new entrant, a team leader or a C-suite executive position – is a key task for global companies. Indifference versus attention can define an organisation that merely functions as opposed to one that prospers and stays at the top.
“It is critical for organisations to be proactive,” says Stephanie Rudbeck, a senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson. “They must manage their future pipeline of talent in order to mitigate for succession gaps, ensure diversity at the top table, provide long-term career development and engagement for individuals, and ensure a secure future for the organisation.”
Filling the pool
“In-depth assessments are the best way to ensure that companies pick the right person for a role,” says George Vollmer, vice president of global accounts and strategic development at Korn Ferry Futurestep. “Assessments should look not only at what candidates do, such as their competencies and experiences, but who the candidates are, including what motivates them and their key traits, such as assertiveness or confidence. This helps hiring managers understand if candidates are ready for a role and if they are a good cultural fit for the organisation.”
In the view of Ms Rudbeck, the days of name-to-box succession plans are fast disappearing, to be replaced by talent pools of individuals who are identified, developed and ultimately placed in a yet-to-be-defined leadership role.
“Organisations seek to create flexibility and diversity within these talent pools, and individuals are encouraged to take a self-directed approach to owning their own career and progression,” she explains. “Some organisations invest in tailored development and career management for these individuals in their talent pools, ensuring that they are building the breadth of career experiences and critical skills needed for future success – whatever that may be.”
According to Hannah Mullaney, managing consultant at Saville Assessment, successful leaders tend to have certain personality traits, such as being extroverted and conscientious. To help identify these leaders of the future, she advises organisations to: (i) think about the impact that a leader needs to have and then recruit, develop and plan for this using a behavioural assessment that is linked to an impact framework; (ii) ensure that strategies are agile, as what is required from a leader in five years may look very different to what is required now; and (iii) use objective assessment methodologies to help eliminate unconscious bias as much as possible and ensure diversity in the future leadership talent pool.
“It is critical to conduct assessments on candidates and then to use the data for development programmes once the person is hired,” adds Mr Vollmer. “Potential talent should be given customised development opportunities to accelerate their performance.”
Maintaining the pool
Maintaining a talent pool and maximising its long-term effectiveness calls for an aggressive recruitment policy, both internally and externally, with plans ideally being put in place early so that organisations can invest time in their future leaders. “Formalised internal mobility programmes that allow employees to become aware of opportunities are critical,” affirms Mr Vollmer. “It is also important for internal hiring managers to have access to employee assessments and development plans to understand which employees might be well-suited for promotions.”
However, according to the Korn Ferry research study ‘Succession Matters’, 78 percent of executives stated that their organisation’s succession management programme only included the title of ‘vice president’ and above. “The study revealed an alarming rate of dissatisfaction with succession programmes among senior leaders and executives,” confirms Mr Vollmer. “Only 36 percent of survey respondents indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied with their company’s succession management programmes and only 23 percent stated that they had a solid pipeline of ‘ready now’ candidates.”
Recognising such concerns is Ms Rudbeck, who believes that the absence of strategic, thoughtful and practical succession planning is a substantial risk to business. “Regulators and those investing in UK companies are concerned that inconsistent practices, notably in senior level succession planning, are increasing the risk of unexpected vacancies or absences causing business disruption and an inadequate pipeline of suitable successors that undermines delivery of strategy.”
Replenishing the talent pool is clearly a key factor in an organisation’s success and the continuation of its strategic plans. Going forward, with the business world likely to remain uncertain in the short-term at least, the priority for organisations must surely be to ensure that their talent pool has depth, is filled with the requisite skillsets and is in no danger of having its plug pulled.
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