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Succession Plans, Secondments and Pipelines

09.07.21 | Talent Pipeline Automation

If reports are to be believed, the average tenure of employees in the future will drop below 2.6 years and that is the actual time they work for an organisation – not each role. Some commentators say “So What ?” – if they want to leave, let them go and maybe they’ll come back. It doesn’t impact the ability of the business to function – we’ll just replace them.

In theory, yes…though the concept of corporate knowledge will cease to exist – and whilst that is acceptable at the operational level, it’s not so good when you are looking to deliver mid to long-term strategic objectives which will define the return on shareholder investments.

One key element to this is the maintenance of a truly effective succession plan to define the risk points – ie where there is no recognised internal candidate with the capability to move in to a Leadership role at given periods in time – and to ideally develop your employees to bridge those gaps in mitigation.

But that’s not easy if they are changing company every 2.6 years. It’s also not just the immediate replacement either – what about the 3, 5, 7 even 10-year plan? Still a consideration even if, after 3 years, the risk drops considerably.

So, what can we as Talent Acquisition professionals look to do in an area that is traditionally the domain of HRBPs and Leadership Development colleagues?

Firstly, look at retention. We know that the upcoming generation of employees look for variety and challenge in their careers and will happily and quickly move to get that. It’s not just about a new role – though that helps – but more about experiencing different industries, vertical sectors, etc.

For some corporates, where they operate across multiple sectors, such as a TATA or Capita, this is easier than for most since the new vertical challenges exist within the brands or subsidiaries of the parent company. But that’s not the case with most organisations who are specialists in a given field.

But what if you could actively deliver those opportunities whilst actively managing the careers of your talent and closing capability gaps as a bonus by developing inter-company secondment opportunities – a bit like the football world does…and it does it very well!

Learning opportunities would be immense for both the individuals and the organisation and as an attraction offering there is not much better than being able to say we actively help you to manage your total career development through our inter-company secondment scheme.

Sure, there are challenges and perhaps the biggest is potentially losing that person to the seconding partner…but you would probably have lost them anyway. This just gives a chance to reinforce loyalty to you. This happens in certain industries as a matter of course, particularly professional services – but why not make it a part of your sourcing strategy to build those formal relationships with other companies.

Secondly, when you can’t offer retention options such as this and you know you have high risk staff who are also a strong flight risk, what have you done to start building for the future and engaging potential people at an early stage.

Talent Pipelining

What if you looked at your succession plan now and suggested to those in the business and HR fields that you can help support the long-term delivery of their objectives through a talent pipelining strategy. No, not just collecting names in a pot and getting in touch with them when your CFO’s first-line succession leaves.

True talent pipelining is about engagement and measurement of that engagement to understand if someone is truly interested in your business…and it doesn’t have to be about a specific role at a specific point in time.

Let’s say you identify the roles throughout the organisation that feed the succession plan from top-to-toe. At each point, your succession plan strategy should a) outline who is next in-line for the “big” role and the roles that have traditionally been successful feeding grounds for it b) define a minimum number of suitable internal options below which alarm bells start to ring and c) involve your TA team when those alarm bells ring!

The TA team can then understand what success in your succession plan looks like and, working with the key internal stakeholders, identify possible external target individuals who you want to engage with and how you want to engage with them. The first place to start is of course your database – who have you had contact previously, who are the silver medallists for those roles that you’ve spoken to in the past, etc…just like doing recruitment for a specific job?!

Once you identify the long-list, reach out to them and explain what you are looking to do – be honest, it’s not a definite job and it may never be – but you want to bear them in mind if a job becomes available, etc, etc (standard agency stuff right – but for your organisation only !). Then get their permission to feed them content relevant to the role/department/division they may potentially be relevant for – depending on how many people are in your long-lists, you may want to automate that process through specialist software/platforms such as Candidate.ID.

The closer you get to a point where you may need to talk about a live role the more specific you make the content – possibly even an NDA so you can engage them with more strategic plans, etc. I wonder how many CEOs would love a new Marketing Director who can deliver strategically from day 1 in the business because they have already been given a good level of knowledge before interviewing – let alone joining!?

Oh, and because you’ve already got that person engaged you can a) get them to assessment sooner b) get them onboarded sooner and c) avoid the delay and possible cost that a “start from scratch” search will entail…and thus decrease the possibility of “empty-seat” lost opportunity and revenue costs in some of the most important positions in your business.

What’s not to love for all involved…

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