How to Build a Bench of Future Leaders
When putting plans in place for a future leadership team, timing is crucial. Will successors be ready to step into the positions they’re being groomed for when the executives in those roles are ready to retire? What if there’s a gap of a few years or more? Linda Henman offers solutions to fill in the gaps.
Recently, I began working with a very impressive construction professional named Parick.
In his mid-thirties, Patrick has already distinguished himself as a seasoned top performer. He’s just not quite seasoned enough. With a few more years of experience — about five — he will be in a position to assume almost any leadership role in his company.
Because this company has done an exceptional job of hiring and developing talent, Patrick isn’t the only top talent his age on the bench. However, several in key leadership positions have reached retirement age and will be leaving the company before Patrick and his generation can assume their roles. What does this company do for five years until those like Patrick have the requisite experience to handle more sophistacated and complicated business decisions?
A booming economy that includes almost 0 percent unemployment in specialized jobs foretells great things for the economy and indivdiaul businessess. Sometimes. My best clients — the ones who have strong growth strategies for the next three to five years — have begun to face a problem they haven’t seen before, at least not in the ways it appears now. As their Baby Boomers head into retirement, business leaders realize they don’t have enough ready-now top talent to replace them, much less enough skilled candidates for jobs that don’t even exist yet.
They need to take a sharp turn in how they think about hiring and developing their future workforce. The Henman Innovative Approach to Hiring can help.
First, I recommend a new approach to poaching. In today’s world of social media, the senior professionals in your company can name every other highly skilled professional that works in your industry. Most of these stars currently work for a competitor and have no motivation to take a recruiter’s call. But that doesn’t mean they won’t take your call.
I encourage my clients to make a list of people they’d like to attract. Then, develop a plan for meeting and convincing them to start working for your company. If every senior person were to identify just one industry star, you could see immediate and dramatic results. HR can’t do this. The relationships have to form in the functional areas of the organization.
Some of these stars may indicate they have golden handcuffs that will make extricating from their existing employer difficult — difficult, not impossible — so you might have to develop some creative approaches to compensation, too. (While you’re poaching from other companies, make sure you’ve created compelling financial reasons for your best and brightest to stay with you).
Second, consider hiring retired people. Many companies hire back their own retired professionals on a part-time or consulting basis, but why not approach those who have retired from your competitors? Many will have non-compete agreeements, but most of these expire in two years or less. A person can play a lot of golf in two years and develop some serious boredom, too. If you hire 65-year olds, you’ll probably have five years of good work from these people before they want to retire again, and you’ll give the Patricks of the world a chance to get ready to take over from them.
Finally, too many decision-makers cling to the notion that a new-hire must have both work and industry experience when they should consider going outside their industry to search for talent. Take “lean.” We almost automatically think of “Lean manufacturing” when we hear the word “lean,” but other industries have learned the value of applying its principles.
Whether you run Southwest Airlines, Harley Davidson or a construction company, you have probably learned that lean means eliminating waste and creating more value for customers with fewer resources. The principles remain the same, even when the industry changes, so why not consider looking for someone who has a proven track record for creating processes that need less human effort, less space, less capital and less money? In addition to hiring an expert, you’ll get a fresh set of eyes looking at your company’s issues.
Of course, companies should never abandon their best practices for hiring at all levels. They should continue to recruit exceptional graduates, screen carefully and get the word out that theirs is the best place to work. But, for the next five years, these won’t be enough. You’ll need to do something radically different to make sure you give Patrick good people to work for and a reason not to take recruiters’ calls himself.