A multitude of research points to the fact that the majority of firms don’t have a viable succession planning strategy. This is really problematic when combined with some of the other trends we’re seeing. Baby boomers are continuing to leave the workforce, employee engagement continues to challenge most organizations and retention rates are falling. If you aren’t doing succession planning, how are you coping with the changing face of your workforce as older workers transition to retirement? How are you addressing the high turnover rates becoming increasingly common across so many industries?
The churn caused by leadership turnover is only one part of the issue. You need to be prepared for all types of turnover in order to keep your projects running smoothly. Have you ever lost a really key employee in the middle of a project? You probably have at some point, and if that’s the case then you know how disruptive it can be. Over-burdened and over-utilized team members will feel the strain, and if you don’t have succession plans in place, you could be adding to an already difficult situation.
So, why are we losing these key employees and what can be done to keep them? Well, although there could be a number of contributing factors, one of the most common reasons associated with the departure of top performers is a lack of career development.
What is Succession Planning?
Succession planning helps you identify and develop employees with the potential to fill key business and leadership positions within the company. Succession planning increases the availability of experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume these roles as they become available. From recruiting the right candidate to developing new leadership from within, succession planning is crucial for an organization to meet its strategic vision and goals.
Are You Committing Any of the Seven Deadly Sins? Let’s See.
Sin #1 – You Set It and Forget It
This sin quickly results in outdated plans and inappropriate strategies. People may still leave the company, availability of employees on the plan may change, and employees may gain new skills or experience. The company could undergo major change, like a merger or acquisition. There is a fluidity to business strategy that should be reflected in your people planning.
Plans should be reviewed at least yearly and whenever changes in company direction or goals are made. When you review plans, ensure the potential successors are still viable by taking a look at your top performers, reviewing employment records, and watching out for new talent that might be a good fit.
Sin #2 – You Have No Backup Plan
The second sin happens when your plans are too narrow. If your plans only include one person and that person leaves, this can put you in a difficult position. Neglecting to create a backup plan restricts your ability to adjust to workforce changes.
When you review your plans, check for backup successors, and if none exist, identify some. Re-evaluate the backup employees as you complete your regular reviews of succession plans.
Sin #3 – You Fail To Develop Successors
Once a plan is setup, it’s time to provide development opportunities to your successors. Get them ready to be successful in the potential new roll. Failing to tie your succession planning to development strategy has plenty of consequences. What happens when an employee is promoted to a leadership role that they aren’t prepared for? A weak leader can have a very negative impact on team culture. Weak leadership can also erode workforce confidence. And for the potential successors, being moved into a role they are unprepared for is an extremely negative experience.
Analyze an employee’s skills, competencies and experiences, and look for resources, such as training courses or mentoring programs, to support those needs. Review the employee’s career path and consider lateral moves that could aid in your planning.
Sin #4 – No Manager Involvement
Managers know their employees and interact with them on a regular basis, and by leaving them out you are overlooking a good source for information.
Effective succession planning includes managers. Give them a voice and take their feedback into consideration. This tactic not only broadens your search, but fosters engagement. Both managers and team members feel they have a voice and are represented in the company’s planning. It also helps managers at the team level by keeping them in touch with who is being considered for succession.
Sin #5 – You Fail to Consider Your Entire Workforce
If you only look at your identified high potential employees, you may miss hidden talent because in many cases they are typically evaluated on the basis of ‘fit’ for their current position without broadening the discussion to include other roles in the organization. Larger organizations in particular may have “unknown” employees who should be considered – the greater the number of employees, the harder it becomes to ensure you are considering all of the right people.
So, make sure you look across the company’s entire workforce. Be sure to consider all important criteria, not just current skills, competencies and history. Look at employee goals and manager recommendations. Do any employees have a career path in place that is already providing training opportunities ideal for the succession plan? Enlist help to discover talent throughout organization – again, give your managers and other key company employees a voice.
Sin # 6 – You Fail to Consider the Employee’s Needs
This sin can lead to engagement and retention issues, in addition to poor job satisfaction. It’s all about communication. You can’t create, implement, and maintain a succession plan in a vacuum. Your ideal candidate to become the next CEO may have very different priorities in mind for life and/or career.
Listen to what your employees say they want. This encourages engagement, positively impacts attrition rates, improves job satisfaction, contributes to overall business success, and demonstrates support for employees’ goals & aspirations.
Sin #7 – You Keep Employees in the Dark
If employees are not aware that there are opportunities available for them within the organization, they may look outside the company. This can lead to lack of engagement, which affects the bottom line. It may not always make sense to provide the full picture to a potential successor, but it is in your best interest to involve them to the degree that you deem appropriate.
There is a lot of debate on how involved employees should be in succession planning, but ultimately, not involving them can have negative consequences. By telling employees they are on a plan, you show that you are considering their long-term involvement at the company and driving awareness that can motivate self-development. You can never go wrong with more communication.
At Brilliant HR, we live and breathe Talent Management and the project lifecycle. These two important aspects of the project based business share certain synergies that are often overlooked. We are unique in that we have a targeted focus on solving the challenges that organizations like yours face every day and delivering solutions like Deltek Talent Management that provides the features and functionality to help you deliver even better projects.
So, how do you cultivate the project life cycle by optimizing your use of Brilliant HR/Deltek Talent Management? Not every project is identical, but the basic concepts are consistent and by using that as a starting point, we can begin the discussion. It helps to think of a project that impacts us every day, but does not require a formal work breakdown structure and where, the process and requirements are the same. I’ll use farming as my example.
With farming the cycle is well defined, simple, repeatable, and reliable with a clear goal to produce a harvest of natural, organic goods. If we reduce the process to the most basic steps, you have to prepare the land > then plant your seeds > nurture, fertilize and water your plants > harvest your crop, then repeat the process for a new harvest.
Granted this is a highly simplified description of what goes into the process of growing food, but it gives us a good framework of the project from start to finish. Project planning can be that simple, as long as you have a clear and repeatable defined steps. You have outlined your tasks, considered the risks, created a contingency plan, and have the proper tools to accomplish the desired outcome. .
Now let’s shift that life-cycle model to talent management. Brilliant HR Talent Management is a critical piece in any project because your people are at the very heart of the project life-cycle. Talent Management is where the project begins by identifying, hiring, and cultivating high performance teams and then retaining that top talent for future project positions. Without the right talent solution in place, your project could very easily crash before it even begins.
Similar to the farming example, let’s take a simplified look at what the Talent process looks like when integrated with the project life cycle.
Recruit > Hire & Onboard > Review Performance > Teach or Train > Develop
A Talent Management solution can streamline the process by helping you:
Identify and recruit top talent to build the high performance teams you need to win more projects
Select candidates that best fit the project position(s) based on required skills, competencies and certifications to take the guesswork out of resource planning
Onboard new employees faster and seamlessly transfer their data to your ERP solution without manually duplicating efforts
Ensure employees assigned to projects are up to date on their certifications and provided learning opportunities to hone their skills. This will help you consistently grow the value of your most important asset, while minimizing risk exposure on your projects
Review progress and provide continuous feedback throughout the process on performance and achievements, by using the solution to facilitate discussions and manage goals
These five easy steps can all be accomplished using Brilliant HR Talent Management and that is only the beginning. Once you have the basic framework in place, you’ll be able to implement an even deeper strategy by incorporating in-house learning programs, succession planning, career paths, and mentor-ship programs.
A great talent management strategy is like a road map, but in order to plan, execute, and measure the success of that strategy, you need to have the right solution in place. Think about it. Can you say today that your solution is enabling the success of your talent management strategy? Are you able to find, nurture and retain the best talent to ensure that you’ll be repeatedly awarded the projects your organization needs to continue to grow? At the end of the day, are you able to measure how successful your firm has been in acquiring and retaining the very top talent in the marketplace? If you just shrugged your shoulders, it’s definitely time to start thinking about what an integrated talent management solution could do for your business.
I chose to relate project planning to farming because it is easy to identify with the common theme of cultivation. Doesn’t this sounds like what you do every day? Finding, recruiting, acquiring, developing and cultivating top talent? If you leverage and maximize Brilliant HR Talent Management in this way, you’ll position yourself to deliver more successful projects! It’s often said you reap what you sow – so get to cultivating!
The issue at hand is essentially this…”we aren’t getting it done.” Who makes up this proverbial “we” and what aren’t we getting done? Well, “we” refers to HR and management / leadership, and we are not getting it done when it comes to employees’ needs relevant to development and performance management. Let me restate that. Maybe we are listening, but we are failing to act. I have seen so many credible sources post so much significant data on this topic. Notably, here are just a few statistics that underscore the issue:
A recent Gallup study indicates that only 21% of employees strongly agree their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work.
Gallup also indicates that only 15% of employees strongly agree the leadership of their organization makes them enthusiastic about the future.
A recent Mercer study indicates that 78% of employees would remain longer with their employer if they saw a career path with their current organization. (Ummm, If? Meaning they don’t see it? Yikes!)
In a Deltek study, we note problematically that 95% of terminations are voluntary. While we know some voluntary turnover can be positive, by and large, we aren’t getting it done. We are hemorrhaging good talent daily.
A joint HR.com/Deltek study informs us that succession & career development planning, employee engagement, retention, performance management and learning are five of the top six issues keeping HR up at night.
…So now that you are tired of the data, what are we going to do about this issue?
Many of the issues we face at work are no different than those in our personal lives. If we aren’t being attentive enough at home, we need to step up and do something about it. In fact, when we know about issues and fail to act, it is viewed even more unfavorably because it becomes an “I/we don’t care” issue rather than just something of which we may not be aware. How does that make people in our personal lives or in our workplaces feel?
One of the most overlooked aspects of employee development (and showing that we are attentive, we care and are paying attention to employees’ needs) starts right in the interview process. Too often, we are either rushing the process just to fill a seat, or are only asking questions that help us determine if someone is a good fit “now”. Many of us are taking time to ask thoughtful interviewing questions regarding things that could really enhance our ability to engage or retain employees. Unfortunately, although we are noting them in interview logs and notes, they are immediately forgotten and not put to use. If we are asking the right questions in the interview, candidates are giving us the answers to the test. What’s the test, you ask? It’s whether or not we can rise to the challenge of putting a great program/strategy in place that is tailored towards meeting the varying needs of our employees, and facilitating their continued growth and development.
If someone is communicating their needs to us in our personal lives, with thought and attention, we can discern what needs to be addressed. We can use communication and interpersonal connection principles that allow us to specifically address the needs. Now, with that said, we need to be honest. We do our best to meet needs; however, we cannot be who we are not, or we will burn significant energy, create resentment, and harm relationships. Let’s apply this to interviews and employment. These needs/desires given in answer format in interviews are hopefully what we can support from a cultural or management perspective in our organizations. We cannot feign these items in order to “fill a seat” or we will end up with turnover, resentment, and a poor reputation in the market. This poor reputation will cause less attraction to our workplace, and drive down engagement and retention.
Career aspirations, short and long-term career development, motivational factors, skill and competency gaps, preferred learning styles and management, as well as cultural desires are key needs that can be uncovered in interviews. Powerful, thoughtful questions on these topics can guide us in our decision making on whether a candidate is both a fit “now” and potentially long-term. As we push through these powerful questions, as noted earlier…we now have the answers to the test. We know who our candidates and new hires are, and what we need to do to successfully foster effective performance management and development processes.
As we onboard these new hires, we have critical pieces of information to assist us in driving effective onboarding development plans. You have valuable information regarding:
Skill and competency gaps for the initial role, and how the employee envisions bridging the gap quickly
Preferred learning style and how they best implement learning and knowledge gains
Preferred frequency, style and methods for receiving feedback
Understanding of what motivates them to succeed and what you can do to incentivize them
Cultural and environmental needs
Much of this same information can be used for long-term development plans for advancement, gap and growth development and ultimate role career-pathing. You know how your employees work best, in what culture, what you can do as a manager to facilitate their development, how they consume and best implement learning, how you can best coach/motivate them, etc. Employees today, by and large, are looking for their roles to be developmental. Gain, grow, move forward (not necessarily up, but onto new challenges). The ability for HR leadership to acknowledge this and have a strategy is critical, and you will find that powerful interviewing will be the key to initiating and igniting the entire process.
Who exactly comprises the “new” workforce? Most likely, your mind went generational, and applied this term in that vein. Perhaps you briefly thought of new employees within your organization. You may have applied the term universally to anyone entering a new career. While this may largely be comprised of the millennials and generation Z, this also applies to those who are entering the workforce at a later stage in life. But what about those of us who adapt and evolve? Those of us who are open to new experiences, challenges, ideas and opportunities? Those of us who are resistant to change, content or happy where we stand? How about just thinking of the “new” workforce as all of us…the “modern workforce”?
When we read studies, observe behaviors, read social media articles, or are just in tune with society, we know that the workforce, and people, have evolved. Unfortunately, no matter how much we read or know, so many of our organizations have just not caught up. If we are approaching this from an HR/business process perspective, let’s use an example that states the following: long gone are the days where employees seek meaningless, exhaustive performance appraisals. That said, feedback…i.e. meaningful, timely feedback is something all generations crave. We seek out feedback both in our personal and professional lives. We desire to know where we stand in our relationships, and we seek specific, relevant feedback than can help us progress, advance our knowledge and position, and solidify and grow our relationships.
In addition to such feedback, autonomy and flexibility are often items we think of with the new workforce, but more importantly, how about versatility? Stability? Financial reward? How about development and opportunity for growth and advancement of skills/our career paths? A recent Forbes article discussed the volume of Generation Z entering the workforce. The article states they are looking for good money, job security, opportunities to advance rapidly, excellent mentoring, the chance to showcase their competitive nature and more. Where I struggle is, are these really qualities of just one or two generations? Although I read more and more that these are characteristics of millennials and generation Z, honestly as a former HR executive, I know these qualities to be important across all employees. This includes generations, different socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. We all have evolved, and while there are differences among us, let’s not be so quick to pin characteristics only on certain groups of people.
As stated, development is also strongly valued. Knowing that, why aren’t most of our organizations meeting this basic employee need? Various studies show anywhere from 60%-80% of companies do not have a formal learning management system that fuels development. A Gallup poll recently showed that only 21% of employees strongly agree that their company’s performance management process motivates them. A recent Business Insider survey shows 71% of millennials are dissatisfied with their development plans and are planning to leave their employer in the near future. Maybe not all of these aforementioned characteristics are important to each of us, but one or more apply to all of us.
Let’s get back to our example about performance appraisals. We know that all generations value specificity and meaningful feedback, yet so many organizations are still mired in long, exhaustive appraisal cycles. We are riddled with a lack of trust, including long approval paths for anything that needs to be moved forward. We are so concerned with measurements (which are very important), but seem satisfied measuring many of the wrong items…items which hold no real business value or are not actionable. Reporting to the CEO that our average accountability score is 4.3 out of 5 is not actionable. Scoring an employee in March on items that happened 14 months ago is not useful. A long workflow that goes through 9 steps and multiple approval stages is not practical in an agile world.
Think of a calendar year, and nod along (or off to sleep) to this scenario. We are supposed to be delivering final appraisal feedback/scoring in December; however, because we have outdated processes that are not relevant, timely, specific or interesting/meaningful, appraisals rarely get completed. Next thing you know, it’s March, and 45% of our appraisals are still not completed. We are almost a full quarter into the new fiscal year, and we still can’t tie a bow on the prior year. Are you really interested in spending time in March on objectives from last year? Of course not. So why aren’t we changing, and why aren’t we giving the new/modern workforce what they want?
Every executive roundtable has discussed its organization’s appetite for change. Do we welcome it? How does our staff handle it? Are we good at developing change management principles and do we communicate and execute well? While these are important discussions, Harvard Business Review tells us that there are some significant reasons we (people) don’t move forward with change. When we know change is coming, we fear we will lose control in areas we may currently have control over. We become uncertain about what’s next for us, and as creatures of habit, we are frightened. We dread more work will come with change, and we are fearful that new processes will shed a negative light on the old ones we developed. As a result, we feel we will lose face and begin to feel incompetent.
I get it, change can be scary and intimidating. Changing a business process, switching software, moving to a new town, leaving an abusive partner, etc. The unknown can intimidate us, and the “what ifs” will paralyze us. But as we deal with HR and business processes, or life in general, I choose to look at it a little differently. We aren’t necessarily “changing”. Many times, we are simply “catching up” or moving through phases that we might have had to endure to get to where we need/want to be. And sometimes, we have to go through long periods without good process, innovation, support, care, positive relationships, etc. to get to a better place in life.
Take something like music for example. Most people have their favorite genre or decade. And when we find that era that we love most, we often look at the prior era and think less of it. Here is your example. The 80’s. For many people who loved 90’s or 2000’s rock, they look at the 80’s and think it was a dumpster fire. But for those of us who didn’t like the 80’s (I am not one…I loved them, because who doesn’t look good in a “Frankie Say Relax” t-shirt?), we need to change our perception to understand how it was a necessary part of the evolutionary journey.
So what does this have to do with HR/business processes? Well, we unfortunately had to go through a long period of ineffective performance management, lack of development, and poor understanding of people in order to get to a much easier, relevant, meaningful way of managing people. We had to evolve our understanding of relevance, and develop trust to craft better process. We needed technology to advance in order to have better collaboration or allow remote work/flexibility. We had to suffer through the 80’s to get to the 2000’s, music fans. My question to you now is, how much longer do we need to keep suffering through the 80’s to get to where you want to be? Are you prolonging the 80’s unnecessarily? I know you love that t-shirt, but it may be time to break it out only on throwback day at the office.
Here we are, 2018. My iPhone recognizes my face, I’m playing Jeopardy on my Echo Show (I promise, I do have actual friends too), and an AI chat bot can fix my internet connection. Many of us though, are still mired in outdated processes and approaches to people (personally and professionally). Fraught with fear of change, we are paralyzed daily by our inability to act. So here is the call to action. Stand up. Embrace modernization of HR/business processes. Ditch the old irrelevant processes… long appraisal cycles, lack of investment in learning and development, lack of trust in approval processes, lack of flexibility and inability to manage by deliverables. Stare fear down, and no longer allow it to own you. I keep mentioning the personal side too. Invest in those around you. Seek feedback on how you can improve. Be vulnerable and open to change so you maintain the relationships you value.
You won’t be seen as incompetent, and you won’t lose face. You will be seen as someone who truly values improvement, and is ready to progress through the 80’s to get to the 2000’s…because you care about those around you. You want to be at your best for your loved ones, your employer, and you want to contribute to continuous improvement by staying relevant and versatile.
Spend some time thinking about what the modern workforce wants. Investigate your processes. Are they truly meeting the needs of this workforce? If not, you will suffer massive retention issues, face incredibly difficult uphill battles with talent acquisition, and be irrelevant as an employer in your industry/market. Do not prolong the 80’s. Do not be afraid to admit it’s time for something new, and please be the one to act on it.
“Our Recruiters are going to have to move faster. If they have to go over budget, that is fine. We need talent.” I have seen this scenario many times…words coming directly from the mouths of senior executives. We need talent. We have gaps. Get recruiting on it immediately. In theory, it makes sense. We need talent, so let’s ensure our talent acquisition team is on it and has the tools and spend necessary to bring talent in the door. But that’s just it…they are bringing it in the front door. As an HR Executive, I often then asked “What are we doing to make sure the back door is closed?”
It’s a simple analogy. If you work hard to attract talent to your organization, then you will need to work ten times harder to keep them there. So, close the back door. Perhaps you’ve read this previously in terms of a fishing net. Why put in a ton of time and effort in catching a fish if there is just a hole in the net anyway? So what organizations end up doing is spending lavish amounts of money on third party recruiting fees, job boards, referral fees, and extra talent acquisition staff plus overhead. We think we are burning through hard earned profits quickly in the talent management process. In actuality, we are burning through hard earned profits in the “lack of” talent management process.
What happens when good talent leaves? In addition to all of the aforementioned talent acquisition costs, money is spent on legal fees fighting non-competes or violated NDAs. Institutional knowledge is lost when a key player who is thoroughly trained on how your business and customers operate chooses to leave. The employees who stay with you are tasked with picking up the slack, causing confusion, burnout and dissatisfaction. Customers leave and follow your former employees, or simply become disgruntled for having to deal with someone new or less experienced. There goes revenue, morale and pieces of your culture. The immediate reaction is to “get recruiting on it immediately.” That is not the answer we need.
It’s certainly easier said than done, but there are three very simple ways that your organization can shift the money it is spending on unnecessary talent acquisition to employee retention.
Career paths – Creating a career path for an employee gives him/her a sense of direction. It ensures the employee knows the organization has long-term plans for him/her, and s/he is highly valued. It provides the basis for identifying skill gaps and growth objectives for an employee that clearly define a development plan for the future.Development Plans – Give an employee a chance to lead a project or initiative. Invest in learning opportunities. Have them shadow employees in other operational areas that add to their skill set. Do these things in alignment with a path you and the employee are creating together to achieve their career goals and fulfill a career path of growth.Mentoring – But mentoring done correctly. Try assigning multiple mentors for a variety of perspectives, or assigning multiple SME mentors so your employees are always dealing with an expert on each of their development needs. If you have an employee who doesn’t aspire to move up, have him/her become a mentor to others.
When you make this shift, you will substantially reduce the additional spend on those legal fees, customer churn/revenue loss, and institutional knowledge attrition. Simultaneously, you will be boosting morale of those employees who are much happier that their co-worker and friend is sticking around for years to come.
Contact usto help you build your 2018 talent strategy, and to see how Deltek Talent Management can help you with both your recruiting and your retention initiatives.
What it comes to helping your employees plan their career, you have many options available to keep them engaged within your organization. These include career planning, development plans, learning, mentoring, and succession planning. Both employee engagement and retention are strong reasons to participate in these activities with your employees.
According to a Gallup poll, employee engagement differs between different segments of your employee population. Engagement is highest among managers (38.4%) and lowest among millennials (28.9%), and there is value in looking at these numbers and knowing if your workforce is simply not engaged or actively disengaged. There are many causes of this level of disengagement, and according to Forbes, the biggest cause of this is when companies fail to consider the employee’s life outside of work and don’t treat them as a person.
Some things to keep in mind when addressing employee engagement include:
Engagement starts at the top.
Mission and vision statements are a way of living.
Create harmony between the “dual lives” of employees.
Communication is key.
Invest in your employees’ future careers.
Low engagement of employees can also have an impact on employee retention, and some other factors you can look at to assist with retention include:
With both employee engagement and retention, your investment in your employees’ careers and opportunities is important. So acknowledging your employee’s life outside of work is not only a benefit when keeping them engaged but also reaps benefits when creating their succession planning and career development. Catch our blog to see other ways to make sure that you turned disengaged employees to engaged employees.