This is such a popular question amongst senior managers and HR departments – whether to recruit a manager from the inside or outside? But when I say ‘popular’ – yes that should definitely be in inverted commas! Popular in the same way a mild stress headache is popular.
There are just so many pros and cons to this debate. Take external recruitment: You get new blood into the organisation, new ideas and a fresh sense of energy and drive within a department. People have the opportunity to see themselves and their projects from a new perspective. New ways of doing things, new relationships to explore.
But the downsides? The cost, the time, the risk of getting the wrong fit, the integration period, the disruption whilst recruiting…
Then there’s internal selection. On the face of it, far more appealing: No unknown quantities, a high level of knowledge and experience of the company culture, less time to recruit, hit the ground running, a straightforward transition.
All looks good for internal recruitment, right? There’s just the thing about the challenges of a person stepping up to a management level. Will they be accepted by their colleagues? Will there be resentment from unsuccessful candidates? There’s also a very small pool of available candidates, plus you may have to fill the gap vacated by your new manager.
So we’re back to the beginning. How to resolve this question once and for all, to avoid facing it on an ongoing basis?
There’s a solution. You need a plan. A succession plan.
If there’s such a thing as a silver bullet for stability and continuity, excellent development and successful recruitment, this is it. Stated simply, Succession Planning is a fully integrated organisational system, the purpose of which is to forecast the supply of talent for key positions.
The key here is in the integration. The senior managers of an organisation with a Succession Plan will, on an ongoing basis and as part and parcel of their everyday roles, be monitoring the talent and competency mix of their people, preparing and comparing competency models, and creating talent pools of exceptional performers in preparation for future roles.
So does this all mean recruitment is exclusively internal and training is all on-the job? Not a bit of it.
The strength of Succession Planning is in the predictive quality of the system itself. When executed with commitment, it’s in the warp and woof of the thinking of the business. That means gaps in experience or talent are identified before they occur, because they’re seen against the backdrop of an overall business strategy and/or objective. Talent is therefore developed or recruited before a critical moment occurs which could hurt the effectiveness of the organisation, due to a lack of appropriate experience.
The training element is also clearly an essential component. There are few more effective ways to disrupt a business and demoralise managers and their staff, than by promoting a manager and pitching them into the role ‘cold turkey’. In days gone by, the sink-or-swim approach to promoting a manager was thought of as character-building! Chuck ‘em in and see how they manage – it’ll prove they’ve got what it takes!
That was then. Companies and organisations, including those without Succession Plans, are far more enlightened these days. Even if training is not ‘predictive’, as it is in a Succession Plan, it will certainly be planned and regular.
And of course, there are soft as well as hard benefits for the business, where training is concerned. It’s a well known fact that where PI is concerned, a good salary and great conditions will only maintain morale and improve performance to a certain degree. What really engages and inspires our people is in the knowledge they’re being valued, recognised and have genuine opportunity to develop and contribute.
Perhaps it could be said that this is all true for any member of staff in any organisation, and perhaps there’s some truth in that. In some shape or form, everyone is essential to the function of the business.
But just consider your experience of working for a really good boss. We’ve all had a few in our time. How did it make you feel, being part of their team? It made work more fun, more interesting and with a more lively atmosphere. We felt part of something, not just a company achieving some abstract business objective.
You sometimes hear people saying ‘You just can’t quantify that. It’s the human element’. Well we’re happy to report, it can be identified, quantified and trained. These are learnable skills, and the best companies are busy teaching them as we speak.