Looking for quick tips about how to set a positive example for staff members by taking the impact of your role as “boss” seriously? You’ve found ten tips here. (Book excerpt: The Girl’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business: Candid Advice, Frank Talk, and True Stories for the Successful Entrepreneur)
The ability to motivate employees is one of the greatest skills an entrepreneur can possess. Two years ago, I realized I didn’t have this skill. So I hired a CEO who did.
Josh had 12 years in the corporate world, which included running a major department at Comcast. I knew he was seasoned, but I was still skeptical at first. We were going through some tough growing pains, and I thought that a lack of cash would make it extremely difficult to improve the company morale.
I was wrong.
With his help and the help of the great team leaders he put in place, Josh not only rebuilt the culture, but also created a passionate, hard-working team that is as committed to growing and improving the company as I am.
Here are nine things I learned from him:
By Susan M. Heathfield, About.com Guide
Trust is the foundation of all positive relationships you seek to create in your organization. Trust is one of the strongest bonds that can exist between people and customers; trust is also one of the most fragile. Once you destroy trust, break the bond of trust, trust is the most difficult facet of your culture to rebuild. You can build a culture of trust in your organization if you steer clear of actions that destroy trust. Avoid these trust busters to build a trust culture.
In an earlier article, I reviewed the three components of trust as defined by Dr. Duane C. Tway, Jr. He says that trust is the “state of readiness for unguarded interaction with someone or something.” Thinking about trust as made up of the interaction and existence of these three components makes “trust” easier to understand.
The amount of trust you experience is dependent upon the degree to which you can respond affirmatively to experiencing each of these three components of trust:
Trust is dependent on the interaction of and your experience of these three components. Trust is tough to maintain and easy to destroy.
For trust to exist in an organization, a certain amount of transparency must pervade the intentions, direction, actions, communication, feedback, and problem solving of particularly, executives and managers, but also of all employees. Consequently, these are ways in which people destroy trust.
These are five of the top issues that destroy trust between employees and in organizations. If you can avoid these five trust busters, you will have gone a long way toward ensuring that trust is building in your organization. Lies, lies of omission, failure to walk the talk, failure to do what you say you will do, and subjecting employees to random, haphazard, unexpected change destroy trust. Walk on the better path. Build, don’t destroy trust in your organization.
From Mike Poskey*,
We all know how litigious our society has become in the area of employment-related issues. Every recruiter, hiring manager, executive, and department manager must realize that asking illegal interview questions or making improper inquiries can lead to discrimination or wrongful-discharge lawsuits, and these suits can be won or lost based on statements made during the interview process.
Thus, it is important to incorporate risk management into your interviewing process to help minimize your firm’s exposure to employment practices liability.
You, or your company, could be accused of asking illegal interview questions or making discriminatory statements or comments that reflect bias. It is also possible to make assurances or promises during an interview that can be interpreted as binding contracts. Recognizing these potential danger areas is the best way to avoid saying the wrong thing during an interview.
Most companies have at least two people responsible for interviewing and hiring applicants. It’s critical to have procedures to ensure consistency. Develop interviewing forms containing objective criteria to serve as checklists. Develop lists of interview questions and illegal interview questions.
These ensure consistency between interviewers, as well as create documentation to support the hiring decision if a discrimination charge is later filed by an unsuccessful applicant.
To minimize the risk of discrimination lawsuits, it’s important for interviewers to be familiar with topics that aren’t permissible as interview questions. Avoid illegal interview questions. For example, you shouldn’t ask a female applicant detailed questions about her husband, children and family plans.
Such questions can be used as proof of sex discrimination if a male applicant is selected for the position, or if the female is hired and later terminated. Older applicants shouldn’t be asked about their ability to take instructions from younger supervisors.
It is also important to avoid making statements during the interview process that could be alleged to create a contract of employment. When describing the job avoid using terms like “permanent,” “career job opportunity,” or “long term.”
Interviewers should also avoid making excessive assurances about job security. Avoid statements that employment will continue as long as the employee does a good job. For example, suppose that an applicant is told that, “if you do a good job, there’s no reason why you can’t work here for the rest of your career.” The applicant accepts the job and six months later is laid off due to personnel cutbacks.
This could lead to a breach of contract claim where the employee asserts that he or she can’t be terminated unless it’s proven that he or she didn’t do a “good job.” Courts have, on occasion, held that such promises made during interviews created contracts of employment.
These practices will help you hire the most qualified candidate using legal, documented interview methods, including avoiding illegal interview questions.
Learn to assess job candidates on their merits. When developing evaluation criteria, break down broad, subjective impressions into more objective factors.
Obviously, you must prepare for the interview by reviewing the application, resume, cover letter, test results, and other materials submitted by the candidate. Try and put the candidate at ease and ask interview questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no” response.
These open-ended questions allow applicants to tell all about their skills, knowledge and abilities. Some examples are: “Why are you leaving your current employer?” “Do you prefer routine, consistent [work or fast-paced tasks that change daily?” “And why?”
Interview questions and issues you want to avoid include the following:
The following are examples of interview questions that should be avoided in interviews because they may be alleged to show illegal bias. This is why they are illegal interview questions.
As you can see, these rather simple and seemingly non-threatening questions can easily violate one of the aforementioned dangers when conducting interviews.
Companies that use best practices in interviewing and that are extremely effective in consistently hiring top performers, use customized or standard behavioral-based interview guides with interview questions to remain consistent in their line of questioning.
These companies not only train their recruiters, but they train their executives, department managers, and hiring managers on legal and effective interview questions and techniques to utilize during the interview. They team them how to avoid illegal interview questions.
These same “risk wise” companies will conduct a job analysis audit for every position within their companies to establish the types of behavioral and situational questions necessary for their interviewing process.
A job analysis audit is a process whereby a company compiles objective data of what is required to be successful in a given position. This process is conducted via interviews, surveys, and testing (both hard skills and soft skills testing).
This process allows the company to objectively identify the competencies, behaviors, thinking and decision making styles, as well as the technical skills that are common among their top performers and required for the position in question. This process establishes a hiring “benchmark” or interviewing “guide” to follow.
The resulting list of critical competencies is what interviewers will use to evaluate candidates. This benchmark, custom to each position, leads the company to define the core line of behavioral interview questions that will uncover these critical competencies, behaviors, and thinking styles, as they directly relate to the job requirements.
Some of the most effective pre-employment behavioral assessments in the market will provide the necessary behavioral interview questions to pose to candidates. This is due to the assessment’s objective evaluation of each candidate’s competencies.
Here are a few examples of legally-defensible behavioral interview questions that will assist in uncovering core competencies in an interview.
Conducting a job analysis audit to objectively identify the core competencies required for a given job, and then customizing a list of behavioral-based interview questions like the ones mentioned above, to identify those competencies, can significantly reduce your exposure to employment practices claims and increase your potential for hiring top performers.
By instituting guidelines such as these, and making sure that your organization’s managers follow them, you will have gone far in reducing your risk of a lawsuit from an employee or job applicant.
You can make their day or break their day. Your choice. No kidding. Other than the decisions individuals make on their own about liking their work, you are the most powerful factor in employee motivation and morale.
As a manager or supervisor, your impact on employee motivation is immeasurable. By your words, your body language, and the expression on your face, as a manager, supervisor, or leader, you telegraph your opinion of their value to the people you employ.
Feeling valued by their supervisor in the workplace is key to high employee motivation and morale. Feeling valued ranks right up there for most people with liking the work, competitive pay, opportunities for training and advancement, and feeling “in” on the latest news.
Building high employee motivation and morale is both challenging and yet supremely simple. Building high employee motivation and morale requires that you pay attention every day to profoundly meaningful aspects of your impact on life at work.
Picture Mr. Stressed-Out and Grumpy. He arrives at work with a frown on his face. His body language telegraphs “over-worked” and unhappy. He moves slowly and treats the first person who approaches him abruptly. It takes only a few minutes for the entire workplace to get the word. Stay away from Mr. Stressed-Out and Grumpy if you know what’s good for you this morning.
Your arrival and the first moments you spend with staff each day have an immeasurable impact on positive employee motivation and morale. Start the day right. Smile. Walk tall and confidently. Walk around your workplace and greet people. Share the goals and expectations for the day. Let the staff know that today is going to be a great day. It starts with you. You can make their day.
Sometimes in my work, I get gifts. I recently interviewed an experienced supervisor for a position open at a client company. She indicated that she was popular with the people at her former company as evidenced by employees wanting to work on her shift.
Responding to my question, she said that part of her success was that she liked and appreciated people. She sent the right message. She also uses simple, powerful, motivational words to demonstrate she values people. She says “please” and “thank you” and “you’re doing a good job.” How often do you take the time to use these simple, powerful words, and others like them, in your interaction with staff? You can make their day.
In the best book I’ve read on the subject, Why Employees Don’t Do What They’re Supposed to Do and What to Do about ItCompare Prices, by Ferdinand Fournies, setting clear expectations is often a supervisor’s first failure. Supervisors think they have clearly stated work objectives, numbers needed, report deadlines and requirements, but the employee received a different message.
Or, the requirements change in the middle of the day, job, or project. While the new expectations are communicated – usually poorly – the reason for the change or the context for the change is rarely discussed. This causes staff members to think that the company leaders don’t know what they are doing. This is hardly a confidence, morale-building feeling.
This is bad news for employee motivation and morale. Make sure you get feedback from the employee so you know he understands what you need. Share the goals and reasons for doing the task or project. In a manufacturing environment, don’t emphasize just numbers if you want a quality product finished quickly. If you must make a change midway through a task or a project, tell the staff why the change is needed; tell them everything you know. You can make their day.
When I poll supervisors, the motivation and morale builder they identify first is knowing how they are doing at work. Your staff members need the same information. They want to know when they have done a project well and when you are disappointed in their results. They need this information as soon as possible following the event.
They need to work with you to make sure they produce a positive outcome the next time. Set up a daily or weekly schedule and make sure feedback happens. You’ll be surprised how effective this tool can be in building employee motivation and morale. You can make their day.
Hand-in-hand with regular feedback, employees need rewards and recognition for positive contributions. One of my clients has started a “thank you” process in which supervisors are recognizing employees with personally written thank you cards and a small gift for work that is above and beyond expectations.
Employees need a fair, consistently administered progressive disciplinary system for when they fail to perform effectively. The motivation and morale of your best-contributing employees is at stake. Nothing hurts positive motivation and morale more quickly than unaddressed problems, or problems addressed inconsistently.
What about supervisory discretion, you are probably thinking. I’m all for supervisory discretion, but only when it is consistent. People need to know what they can expect from you. In employee relations, an apt statement is: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” (attribution unknown) You can make their day.
Supervisors frequently ask, “How do I motivate employees?” It’s one of the most common questions I am asked. Wrong question. Ask instead, “How do I create a work environment in which individual employees choose to be motivated about work goals and activities?”
That question I can answer. The right answer is that, generally, you know what you should do; you know what motivates you. You just do not consistently, in a disciplined manner, adhere to what you know about employee motivation.
The ten tips, outlined in this article, are the keys to supervisory success in creating positive employee motivation and morale. The challenge is to incorporate them into your skill set and do them consistently – every day. Author, Jim Collins identified disciplined people doing disciplined things every day as one of the hallmarks of companies that went from Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’tCompare Prices. You can make their day.
Use whatever access you have to education and training. You may have an internal trainer or you can seek classes from an outside consultant, a training company, or a college or university. If your company offers an educational assistance plan, use all of it.
If not, start talking with your Human Resources professionals about creating one. The ability to continuously learn is what will keep you moving in your career and through all the changes I expect we’ll see in the next decade.
Minimally, you will want to learn the roles and responsibilities of supervisors and managers and how to:
What does all this have to do with employee motivation, you may ask? Everything. The more comfortable and confident you are about these work competencies, the more time, energy, and ability you have to devote to spending time with staff and creating a motivating work environment. You can make their day.
Spend time daily with each person you supervise. Managers might aim for an hour a week with each of their direct reports. Many studies indicate that a key employee work motivation factor is spending positive interaction time with the supervisor. Schedule quarterly performance development meetings on a public calendar so people can see when they can expect some quality time and attention from you. You can make their year.
Most people want to learn and grow their skills at work. No matter their reason: a promotion, different work, a new position or a leadership role, employees appreciate your help. Talk about changes they want to make to their jobs to better serve their customers.
Encourage experimentation and taking reasonable risk to develop employee skills. Get to know them personally. Ask what motivates them. Ask what career objectives they have and are aiming to achieve. Make a performance development plan with each person and make sure you help them carry out the plan. The quarterly performance development meeting is your opportunity to formalize plans for people. You can make their career.
People expect you to know the goals and share the direction in which your work group is heading. The more you can tell them about why an event is happening, the better.
Prepare staff in advance if visitors or customers will come to your workplace. Hold regular meetings to share information, gain ideas for improvement, and train new policies. Hold focus groups to gather input before implementing policies that affect employees. Promote problem solving and process improvement teams.
Above all else, to effectively lead a work group, department, or unit, you must take responsibility for your actions, the actions of the people you lead, and the accomplishment of the goals that are yours.
If you are unhappy with the caliber of the people you are hiring, whose responsibility is that? If you are unhappy about the training people in your work group are receiving, whose responsibility is that? If you are tired of sales and accounting changing your goals, schedule, and direction, whose responsibility is that?
If you step up to the wire, people will respect you and follow you. You are creating a work environment in which people will choose motivation. It does start with you. You can make their whole experience with your company.
Sometimes, it’s the little things that can send your resume into the reject pile, without it even getting a close look. Naming your resume “resume” can send it to the trash faster than you can blink. So can forgetting to write in proper sentences.
At ERP Software Advice, the company sorts through about 150 candidates for each hire they make. Only about twelve of those 150 candidates get to a first-round phone interview. Many of them are rejected for little, and sometimes silly, things like how you name or save your resume, that are still enough to knock the resume out of contention.
Don Fornes, CEO of ERP Software Advice shares his tips on how to name your resume, how to write your letters and resume, and how to save your resume.
Don’t name your resume, “resume.” About a third of applicants name their resume document, “resume.doc.” “Resume” may make sense on your computer, where you know it’s your resume. However, on my computer, it’s one of many, many resumes with the same name. By using such a generic file name, the applicant misses a great opportunity to brand themselves (e.g. “John Doe – Quota Crusher”). If you’re qualified enough to sell or market for us, you won’t miss the opportunity to at least use your name in the file name.
don’t use all lowercase. i’m not sure where this trend originated. is it some text messaging thing? it’s so easy to capitalize properly on a keyboard. how much time is this really saving you? to me, it screams out, “hi. i’m lazy. my pinkies are really heavy and I’d rather not move them to shift. when i start working for you, i’ll look for other ways to be lazy. i’ll also rebel against authority figures like you, just like i’m rebelling against the english teachers that dedicated their lives to helping me become literate.”
Proofread your resume. It’s unbelievable the number of spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes I see in resumes. Again, this is a blaring clue telling the hiring manager that you don’t check your work and you don’t pay attention to detail.
PDF your resume. Not everyone uses the same operating system and word processor that you do. I use a Mac. I don’t have Word – don’t want it. My ATS can’t handle .docx files. A lot of the resumes I see come through horribly garbled. So much for that nice formatting you did (Did you?). PDF, or portable document format, is a simple solution.
By Alison Doyle
Afraid of failing? You’re not alone. Here are four ways to look beyond rejection and conquer your fears for good.
Everyone hates rejection. Especially people who must sell for a living. However, there is one thing that’s worse than the rejection itself: the fear of being rejected.
Rejection is just an event that’s quickly over. But the fear of rejection… ah!… that can last a lifetime.
It’s this fear of rejection is true the bane of sales success. If rejections scare you, you’ll find it difficult, or even impossible to do whatever it takes to make your company successful. You’ll avoid calling on customer, you’ll balk at hard bargaining, you’ll hesitate to close. To misquote one of my favorite books: “Fear is the sale-killer.” (Bragging rights to whomever can identify the book in a comment.)
In my experience, the best way to deal with the fear of rejection is to remove the sting of the rejection in the first place. Here’s how:
STEP #1: Realize that most rejections aren’t real.
Suppose you make a cold call and the prospect hangs up on you. While that’s feel like “rejection”, the truth is that the prospect’s reaction has nothing to do with you. You had no way of knowing that the prospect was busy and that the prospect thinks it’s OK to hang up on unfamiliar callers.
Maybe if you said something different or called at a different time, you might have gotten a different reaction, but that’s just a story you’re making up in your own mind. If you had called at a different time, the prospect might just as easily have added a expletive before hanging up.
Most “rejections” don’t have anything to do you with personally. Anybody else taking the same action that you did, at the same time, would have gotten the exact same reaction. The “rejection” is simply a hallucination that your emotions have created to “explain” the event.
STEP #2: Understand the source of the “sting”
According to Art Mortell, author of excellent book The Courage to Fail, there are three situations that make rejection sting:
Your job is to identify the specific circumstances that are causing the “sting”… then we can begin work on neutralizing it.
STEP #3: Map the parameters of your fear
Take out your iPad (or yellow pad, if you prefer) and write down the answer the following three questions:
Take the time to honestly answer, because you’re now pinpointing the exact limits of the fear that’s crippling your sales success.
STEP #4: Change the beliefs that create your fear
If you look deeply enough, for each of these thresholds, you are holding onto a unspoken belief (about life, business, people, etc.) that is creating the fear. Examples:
To remove the sting of rejection, you need to explicitly and consciously replace those limiting beliefs with better beliefs that create confidence rather than fear. Examples:
It’s really that simple. Reframing the “source” of the fear expunges the fear, thereby extracting its sting. Here’s what Art Mortell once told me about dealing positively with rejection.
“Five words. DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY. Things happen. Customers have lousy days. The economy goes down. It rains. It snows. Sometimes it snows on you. It’s up to you to decide whether or not those events are an excuse for failure. In the end, only four things are under your control: your beliefs, your attitude, your emotions and your actions. If you take care of them, good results are inevitable.”
As of September 6, 2011 there have been 449 bank closures in the US since 2008. When you compare that to the three closures during the years of 2005 to 2007, it is easy to see that the future for any company in the financial industry is somewhat bleak. Many other companies having also been feeling the effects of the failing economy since 2008.
Financial institutions and other companies within the financial industry had been one of the hardest hit because of the misrepresentation of many securities tied to home mortgages. Soon after, regulators started to audit any financial company or institution that showed signs of weakness. In some instances, the regulators took over and eventually forced closure of these financial institutions. With scrutiny from the public and its regulators, it was difficult being a banker. In industry where most banks are doomed to fail, how does a bank, a financial institution succeed? The key to any company’s success is their employees; this is any company’s most valuable asset. To effectively manage and keep this group alive you need a knowledgeable and tactful Human Resources department. This department needs to have professionals with strong interpersonal skills to maneuver through sticky situations. In a crisis similar to what was happening in 2008, strong interpersonal skills will allow this department to improve employee morale and motivation even when the budget to do so is scarce. Here is a list of the four easy and inexpensive ways to improve employee morale and motivation in slow economic times:
1. Build Trust—being able to build and sustain trust among your employees will increase people’s confidence and performance. This is done through open communication. For example, at South County Bank Diane, HR Director, and Kent, President teamed up to organize bank-wide meetings where information was shared about the Bank’s bottom line, where the company was headed, and answer any questions. These meetings stopped one of the South County Bank’s biggest morale killers: rumors. With everything out in the open there was no speculation about what was really happening.
2. Give Recognition—in times where there is not much to celebrate, how do you encourage employees to work hard? Through simple and low budget recognition programs, like employee of the month. South County Bank uses their monthly meetings as platform to recognize employees for yearly anniversaries’ and performance successes. At one of the first meetings, Derek, Relationship Manager, was recognized for collecting late fees. Seems real simple, huh? And it is! Employees in the Credit Department were so use to waiving fees that collecting fees were unheard. This old way of thinking stopped once an incentive was tied to collecting fees. Employees will appreciate this recognition and know that their hard work does not go unnoticed. Other employee will want to work harder so they too will be recognized as a top performer in front of their peers.
3. Create a Great Company Culture—employee morale is most high when a company has a great company culture. This can easily been done through increased training and growth opportunities for employees. When employees see growth in their positions, their job satisfaction and happiness will follow. At South County Bank, the HR department created a new training program to deepen employees’ knowledge of their job. This empowered the employees to make better decisions and have educated conversations with the customers about their accounts and different products.
4. Bring Back Casual Dress Day—using this as a reward for employees for meeting goals can increase employee morale. In a financial institution, this is a little harder to implement because customers are dealt with on a daily basis. Diane and Kent, at South County Bank, reinstated casual dress by allowing employees to dress appropriately for their day. Meaning if they were working with customers they needed to dress up or in the stock room they could wear jeans. Top management also allowed people who did not have face-to-face customer contact to wear jeans on Fridays.
In a failing economy, companies need to concentrate on keeping employee morale and motivation high to ensure their companies’ survival. Human Resources is the department to look towards for the solutions and programs to manage this. Through the strong interpersonal skills of the HR department this can be achieved. When morale and motivation are low, the HR department can execute low-cost initiatives to turn it around. Better morale leads to a better workplace attracting and retaining the workforce needed to succeed when times are tough. HR has the skills to find, hire, and place the right people in open positions. Using these four easy ways to improve morale and motivation can spell success for any company. It means going back to the basics looking at what you have to work with, seeing where you need to be, and knowing the small steps that will get you there.
Contributor: Cassandra Phillips
Succession planning grooms firms for success
While the demand for effective managers continues to grow, the retirement of baby boomers is producing a sharp decline in the ranks of available personnel. In addition, the executives of the future are expected to be more sophisticated in order to develop and lead new global and technological initiatives. For these reasons, careful planning for the eventual replacement of managers at all levels in organizations has gained strategic importance.
This is true for small firms as well as large ones. It’s not just succession to the top – It’s getting the right person in place for every job. Some of tomorrow’s key jobs may not even exist now. If a firm plans to double in size in five years, they will need more talented managers.
The larger issue is leadership development, tracking, and developmental opportunities. The real key in succession management is to create a match between the organization’s future needs and the aspirations of individuals. The only way to keep talented people is to provide them with growth opportunities that keep them stretching and finding more promising opportunities they might find elsewhere. The average college graduate will change jobs five times in his or her career. Within the next decade, this norm will probably increase to seven job changes. Recruiting and retaining leaders becomes an economic and strategic challenge.
Succession management serves as an interface between the human resource function and the strategic direction of an organization. In this role, it is a vital resource in anticipating the future needs of the organization and helps find, assess, develop, and monitor the human capital required by the organization’s strategy. While serving as trusted adviser and confidant of the CEO, the succession management function may also reflect the concerns and needs of line executives throughout the business units.
To discover what leading practitioners of this complex art have learned, 16 firms sponsored an investigation with the American Productivity and Quality Center into the succession management practices of companies who had been identified by published reports or nominated by the study team as potential “best practice partners.” The study sponsors voted to choose Dell Computer, Dow Chemical Company, Eli Lilly and Company, PanCanadian Petroleum, and Sonoco Global Products as firms they would like to visit and study their approaches to management succession.
In this investigation, we found that succession management is a continuous annual process. It requires an ongoing commitment of top executives, divisional HR Staff, and succession management specialists. At Dell Computer, committed top executives were able to assemble a succession management program very rapidly, and they have used it to manage an incredible rate of growth without major discontinuities. Collaboration between the CEO and succession management teams can create a virtual cycle of success.
All best-practice partners felt fortunate to have the enthusiastic support of the top management. But this support was not gratuitous and was earned by providing an essential service. At Dow, the process was designed with the active involvement of the CEO, the vice president of human resources, and the workforce planning strategic center. At PanCanadian, the CEO is the key sponsor for succession management, and a senior management committee of vice presidents steward the process at the corporate level.
One of the clearest insights discovered is that effective succession management is a journey, not a destination. The best-practice partners in this study did not succeed in their first efforts at succession management. Similarly, none have rested on their laurels since having their process up and running. They continually see and adjust their systems as they receive feedback from line executives, monitor developments in technology, and learn from other leading organizations. For example, Dell reduced the degree of computerization for succession management data in response to feedback from the field. Conversely, Lilly focused on providing a single integrated, centralized, and synchronized database of succession information.
Succession management identifies and monitors various talent pools within the organization to match the future needs of the organization with the bench strength of available talent. Not having the right talent in place is often a growth-limiting factor in achieving business potential. With the impending retirement of baby boomers and increased demands for diversity, leading organizations are building systems that provide talented, high performers opportunities to grow. For example, Sonoco identifies eight separate pools that are sorted by division or business unit. PanCanadian focuses on “bright lights” and critical skills but also looks across the organization, especially for high potential young managers reporting to senior executives.
Talent assessment is a semi-transparent process in best-practice organizations. Most managers receive feedback and information about their developmental needs and suggested activities for further growth. Individuals who have been designated as high potential are seldom told of this designation to avoid raising expectations. At Lilly, an eight-page talent identification questionnaire is used to evaluate the assumed potential of 15,000 associates on performance, potential derailment factors, and learning agility. Similarly, Dell uses scaling calls to determine an individual’s level of talent.
Best-practice partners use a core set of competencies or behaviors to establish a standard of comparison for assessment. Most organizations use a subset of leadership competencies that are aligned with the core set. All use these competencies as a basis for performance management and four out five use these for identification of high- potential employees. Furthermore, best-practice partners used fewer competencies than study sponsors, feeling that simplicity and focus were stronger advantages than comprehensive efforts. Dow has moved from having different competencies for each global business to a common set of seven used throughout the corporation. Dell focuses on “global corporate talent,” which consists of individuals who have the capability to “run significant portions of a …. Business…on a global basis.” They also track “functional high potentials.”
The use of technology in succession management varies widely within the best-practice organizations. Yet, web-based systems seem to offer great potential for worldwide access and large-scale integration of data. As suggested previously, Dell has moved from more extensive global software applications to a much simpler MS Excel workbook to organize data. Sonoco moved to integrate four commercial applications (PeopleSoft, HRCharter, Lotus Notes, and ExecuTRACK) into a seamless system that can be globally accessed and updated daily.
Meet Organizational Needs Best-practice partners employ a wide range of developmental activities to engage leaders and extend their capabilities. These firms spend considerable time creating stretch developmental opportunities that are consistent with the organization’s needs, as well as with those of the individual. Several firms reported that they would give people a temporary assignment as a part of, or tied in with, an action learning assignment.
Dow Chemical offers mentoring, coaching, and action Iearning along with university-based programs. Dow’s internal research indicates that graduates of their internal executive education program showed improvements in strategic thinking, external focus customer orientation, and global view. Dow also offers an extensive array of training courses on-line. They report 14,000 on line courses were completed online in one week. Eli Lilly uses individualized developmental plans, 360-degree feedback, job rotation and a formal mentoring program as part of their developmental arsenal.
All best-practice partners use some variety of a nine-box matrix for classifying the performance of their managers. In most instances, this matrix (originally popularized by General Electric) assesses individuals on the basis of performance, corporate values, and perceived potential. An individual who is performing well may not be judged as highly as someone who has not gotten comparable results but has persevered in a real stretch assignment. A popular competency was “learning agility.” This refers to the ability and willingness to learn new material and adapt to new situations.
The major metric by which succession systems are evaluated is the percentage of openings filled from within the firm. Sonoco finds that the performance/promotability matrix is 80 percent to 90 percent accurate in identifying candidates for key positions. At Dow, the hit rate of the succession plan is the key measure. If the person elected for an open position was on the list of potential successors, the system is believed to be working. The current hit rate of 75 to 80 percent shows considerable improvement from the past and is viewed as a reasonable target. Other key metrics include diversity and cross-functional assignments. Lilly has a measurement system that ensures its senior management cadre includes diversity in gender, ethnicity, and geographic origin. Finally, a unified approach to succession management can help to maintain consistency between different business units and geographic areas, and can contribute to objectivity in an organization’s strategic human resources. For many firms, the first step in realizing these benefits will be to place succession management on the strategic radar. Then, an organization is prepared to benefit from the following best-practice principles.
Deploying a Succession Management Process
Identifying the Talent Pool
Engaging Future Leaders
Monitoring and Assessing the Program
When the firms who had been recognized as “best-practice organizations” were asked for any insights that might be helpful to other firms interested in improving their succession management, they responded with the following recommendations.
The last two recommendations suggest that there is a “virtuous cycle” when the succession system supports corporate strategy in a tangible way. Obviously, senior executives are much more supportive when the system gives the achievement of their strategies a higher probability of success.