They asked: Hi Po selection, Hiring the right people, Succession Planning

For my blog readers – this is a second post inspired by questions received from HR leaders that I talked with yesterday.  It was great to see a packed lunch meeting with 100 busy HR leaders taking time to talk and go through my Talent Scorecard.  Great questions, and I was happy to get my development plan template in the hands of so many HR leaders who can hopefully use it to impact their people.  

I will start back with more normal posts next week – 150 to 300 words.  Also, I apologize for any spelling /grammar issues.  I work hard to scrub a normal post, but at 1000 words the editing to perfection is not a battle I will fight.  Remember that trUe conversations are not always done in perfect english. 🙂

How do you effectively identify high potential employees based on data rather than who the manager likes?

I am guessing this comes from a negative experience trying to convince a group of leaders that they were wrong. 🙂  First of all, HR has to argue enough with business leaders about things like compensation that do not make this conversation an argument, but make it a collaboration.  Here are a few tips to make it happen.

  • Start the process with this question:  What do we look for in a successful leader here? (Hi Pots by definition are people destined for a significant leadership role – 2 moves up in a larger organization).  Take the list and prioritize it to a top 5 critieria.
  • Insert into the conversation the definition of learning agility from the book The Leadership Machine (by Lominger).  Use that description to help the group make sure the pieces of that definition are captured in your criteria.  (I am assuming you are using a 9 box of some sort somewhere in your process)
  • Make sure there is a section called Accomplishments as part of the Talent Profile you are creating for each candidate.
  • Have the discussion and air disagreements and capture(write it down) any concerns or questions people have about this person.
  • Action Plans / Next Steps should include having leaders questioning the inclusion find an opportunity to work more closely with this person and for the leader supporting them to find ways to showcase this person’s skills in projects, presentations, etc.

I have a post talking about how developing people is like cooking in a crockpot.  Here is the link.  Do not try and microwave this process and feel like ALL the answers have to be clear at the end of the process. 

Other than personal referrals, what have you found to be the most effective way(s) of determining those who will end up being high quality employees?

This is a big one, and there are endless vendors out there ready to sell you their silver bullet solution to this problem.  My favorite solution is outlined in TopGrading, but know that it is not an easy implementation.  It will be a live long skill(that will be marketable and useful) once you master it.  I have worked/networked with lots of startup/early growth companies and here are a few tips based on what they say made a difference and a few hints from me.

  • Divide interviewing into Skills/Experience to do the job and cultural fit for your organization.  Spend some time defining your culture (values, beliefs, mission) and be purposeful about evaluating people based on that.
  • Find ways to work with people first – via contracts, projects, including a ride along with someone as part of an interview, or maybe even giving them a real problem to solve during an interview.  Too many people think interviewing starts with the posting on monster or has to be confined to questions in a room. 
  • Do a 30 day, 90 day, and 6 month review of hires to determine “Good Choice?  Bad Choice? What did we learn?  How do we apply the learning?”  Over time this will make your process better.
  • In hiring decisions center the discussion around answering three questions:  Are the willing?  Are they able?  Are the manageable?
  • Give it time.  If you only have 30 minutes to interview a hire you will likely get a 30 minute hire.  If that is good enough for the leader then move on to a manager/leader who cares.  (sorry that was a bit blunt, but there is no other way to say it.)

If we are not able to have a formal succession planning system can you please provide some other ways and/or tools that we can informally work through this with leaders we support within our organization?  Thank you!

I left the Thank you in your question because I wondered if it would still be there after I gave my answer.  🙂  My answer is No, not yet.  I say this because Succession Planning is such a big topic and really the culmination of doing the basics of Talent Management well that if it is too hard, the reasons are you are not doing the basics well and the relationships within the leadership team are probably not trusting enough to make it work anyway.  The number one barrier to this happening well at the leadership level is ego.

I do have a couple of bits of advice that hit me as I talked with the 100+ HR leaders yesterday.  Stop calling it succession planning and use the terms Most Valuable People and Most Critical Roles to identify your efforts.  I did that in my Talent Scorecard because I wanted to communicate it in more ‘non HR’ language.  Leaders might balk at the ‘valuable’ or ‘critical’ labels because they will exclude people.  This process is meant to focus scarce resources (time, money) on the most critical areas(roles) and most valuable resources(best people) in the business.  I guess the question is whether the leader proposes spending a little bit on everyone?  Another thought is “Do we want our talent management efforts to resemble socialism or capitalism?  On second thought, better hold that one back unless you want a real ideological argument.  🙂  I commit to trU Tips #18 to focus on that, so sign-up for trU Tips  and I commit to addressing this for you and others that are asking the same questions. 

In the meantime, the basics I reference are already out there on my resource page.  Check it out.

If you want clarification on any of this feel free to post a question on this blog and I will gladly do my best to answer it.