People & Management, May 2014
Today’s exceedingly competitive business environment is making organisations pin pointedly focussed on retaining their own leadership talent. There is a key expectation that leaders should not only help in grooming other leaders within their own organisation, but also plan and execute in identifying and cultivating their own replacements. At the same time, organisations are fiercely competing in the talent market to ensure that they have a solid view on what ‘best fit’ leadership talent is available in a rapidly shrinking pool, just in case the ‘best fit’ talent is not available within the organisation itself.
The CEO, CXO Agenda
Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is central to the strategic plans of CEOs and CXOs today. BCP demands that the organisation is de-risked from any event that would create a void within key business roles, with a possibility of derailing the organisation from its business mission and goals. The organisation could land up paying the price arising out of situations due to a possible turnover in critical business roles, such as:
• Critical business timelines being compromised or missed;
• Key business activities falling through the cracks;
• Important relationships languishing and running dry;
• Loss of confidence in organisation’s ability to perform;
• Huge loss of organisational knowledge and proprietary business intelligence;
• Strategic business opportunities getting lost.
Successful CEOs and CXOs of high performing organisations, therefore, make sure to keep a keen eye on the ‘best fits’, both inside and outside the organisation, and swiftly move to fill in any vacuum whenever the need arises. In fact, an organisation’s long term business performance and growth is largely dependent on identifying which leadership roles and traits align with the organisation’s strategic business objectives, and who are the right people to fill these roles – both inside and outside the organisation.
The Need to Look Out
I will focus more on the ‘outside’ aspect, as much has been spoken and written about what is practiced ‘inside’ an organisation. In recent times, several global giants, as well as emerging and well hyped start ups, have found themselves grappling, stumbling and at times, falling flat in face of the adversity that leadership voids can create – the turbulence stirred up by today’s global economy only further compounding the impact of these pitfalls.
The Solution: How, Who and When
Solution here is to create a think tank team that only focusses on filling this expectation. Here is what this team does:
Identifying Key Positions: The team works closely with the organisational TA teams to identify high impact and high risk positions, at times even with the direct business line. It also helps in identifying competencies and experience needed for each such business critical position and help writing out the ‘right mix’ Critical to Quality (CTQ) parameters of the job descriptions that will help map, search and locate relevant talent in the larger market space. Identification of such high risk and high impact roles usually cuts across not only at the organisational group level, but also at the business unit level.
Mapping Competition: As HR experts focussed on specific industries, it is expected to know, if not identify, with whom the competition is and who are the ‘best fits’ that will get mapped to the identified business critical positions with the customer. Competition is mapped for all of the positions that are identified within the high impact and high risk category. Whether it is scrounging for data available openly in the market, or target hunting for specific talent by participating in relevant industry forums – team is expected to do it all. Not only that, it often engages in compensation benchmarking of key business critical positions, and also advises the sponsor level stakeholders on changes they need to make in the way the compensation offered is sized and packaged in front of a relevant talent pool.
Engaging with a Warm Candidate Pool: Once a talent pool list is ready, it is important to ensure that the relevant candidates identify the customer as a possible employer of choice – a possible option when it comes to the moment when he/she might contemplate a job change. It is noted that on an average, around 20 percent of the talent pool is actively seeking jobs. Besides chasing such identified talent on the social network and in forums etc, team partners with customer stakeholders in organising closed group sessions that allow candidates to learn about the vision, mission and values of the customer organisation, and also give them a platform to exchange industry-wise views and ideas in context of the customer organisation and their own career paths. Other than this, a dedicated team of chasers makes sure to keep talking and engaging with such talent from time-to-time.
Bringing Home the Trophy: The experienced and super trained Leadership Relationship Managers (LRMs) make sure that conversation with their earmarked business leader candidates has been consistent and meaningful. LRMs are deeply entrenched in their respective industry network and are able to strike that one-on-one chord with their earmarked candidates. The Think Tank team ensures that the LRMs are provided with all the information on innovation and progress made in the customer’s organisation. LRMs have direct access to the customer’s line and HR leadership, and they give enough reason that makes most of the senior customer stakeholders answer their phones on priority. When the need arises, there is an immediate pipeline of ‘right fit’ candidates to get on board, usually with just a CEO round of ‘discussion’ followed by a compensation closure. The usually painfully long cycle time of sourcing to hire is cut drastically short, ensuring that that the organisation’s business does not get a hit. Another huge advantage is that the final hiring choice is that of a candidate with whom there is already an existing warm mutual relationship, minimising challenges that might arise due to cultural fitment problems occurring later. Finally, even if there isn’t any reason that has ignited the need to tap into the existing mapped pipeline, the customer stakeholders have the richness of the relationships they have built to tap onto – the competitive advantage of being able to call up people in your mapped talent pool to seek recommendations or commentary on competitors. And to the customer’s CEO and CXO, the exponential ROI that emerges from all the above mentioned advantages, however intangible and indirect it might be, makes it all worth the investment!
Look Outward at the Opportunity
Today’s business environment is exceedingly dynamic – rapidly growing and changing, thus at times, organisations struggle to find the people who will plan and execute the business mission and goals. It has, therefore, become imperative for an organisation to have a solid leadership talent pool, along with a sound talent pipeline that allows the organisation to maintain its competitive edge that will drive new business ideas and initiatives into the future. Thus, a robust succession plan becomes an essential part of a high growth, competitive and performance driven organisation’s culture and becomes pervasive across the organisation. And more often than not, its business leaders find the ‘best fit’ solution outside, than inside.