Who’s next?

Man­age­rial suc­ces­sion plan­ning a must

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

SPRING is al­ways a great time of year for newly re­leased re­search pa­pers and sure enough, the U.S.based So­ci­ety for Hu­man Re­source Man­age­ment has just re­leased its lat­est study on work­force plan­ning.

So, should I be sur­prised to learn that only 40 per cent of or­ga­ni­za­tions have con­ducted a strate­gic work­force plan­ning as­sess­ment or iden­ti­fied their skills gaps? No, frankly, I am not sur­prised, but I am cer­tainly dis­ap­pointed. Af­ter all, as a hu­man re­source pro­fes­sional, I’ve been tout­ing the mes­sage of suc­ces­sion plan­ning for many years. How­ever, as with other pend­ing chal­lenges, some or­ga­ni­za­tions just don’t seem to deal with things un­til a prob­lem smacks them squarely in the head.

Not so with Boe­ing Canada Op­er­a­tions Ltd. In fact, Boe­ing’s lead­er­ship is well aware of the hu­man re­source met­rics with re­spect to their baby boomer em­ploy­ees and the col­lec­tive in­tel­lect and ex­pe­ri­ence that could walk out the door any day, and they are do­ing some­thing about it. Cathy Bain, se­nior HR man­ager, and her col­leagues Jody Cum­mings, Na­dia Har­tung, Dolores Schromeda, Lisa Wyszyn­ski and Ce­les Isidro along with mem­bers of their man­u­fac­tur­ing “skills teams” have con­sid­ered the is­sue in depth. They had uti­lized the strat­egy of ex­ter­nal re­cruit­ment, but quickly rec­og­nized this process was in­ef­fec­tive as new re­cruits are of­ten too slow to be­come ac­cus­tomed to the Boe­ing cul­ture. In some cases, the lack of ad­just­ment led to the new re­cruit leav­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Boe­ing’s so­lu­tion was to pro­mote from within as the key strat­egy to fill the skills gap and pop­u­late their suc­ces­sion plan. To do that, the com­pany needed to fill the pipe­line with trained and skilled can­di­dates for va­cant man­age­ment po­si­tions. The chal­lenge then was how to cap­i­tal­ize on em­ploy­ees’ knowl­edge of the Boe­ing or­ga­ni­za­tional cul­ture and pro­cesses while build­ing up the man­age­ment knowl­edge and ex­per­tise re­quired for lead­er­ship roles within the com­pany.

The re­sult was the de­vel­op­ment of a rig­or­ous in­ter­nal lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment pro­gram that has im­me­di­ately proven suc­cess­ful. Bain and her team be­gan by hold­ing man­age­ment fo­cus groups that led to the de­vel­op­ment of a can­di­date suc­cess pro­file. As has been found in other or­ga­ni­za­tions, the big­gest gap proved to be soft skills train­ing. Next, the team re­viewed Boe­ing’s six cor­po­rate lead­er­ship at­tributes and 19 be­havioural com­pe­ten­cies. These were used to build a check list to re­view their lo­cal in­ter­nal train­ing pro­grams. They then built a se­ries of one-day train­ing ses­sions and for­mu­lated an eight-month lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment pro­gram.

De­vel­op­ing a pro­gram was the easy part. The hard part was strate­giz­ing how to re­cruit and se­lect qual­i­fied can­di­dates for the pro­gram who would be com­mit­ted for the long term. As a re­sult, a chal­leng­ing seven-step se­lec­tion process was de­vel­oped and im­ple­mented. First of all, the HR team held a se­ries of open public fo­rums for em­ploy­ees to share with them the pro­gram plans and the re­cruit­ment process. Each forum in­vited a man­ager to speak about their role from the point of view of the “good, bad or ugly” — in other words, giv­ing par­tic­i­pants a re­al­is­tic view of the life of a man­ager. This was the first of sev­eral “re­al­is­tic job pre­views” that would be of­fered to em­ploy­ees.

The next step re­quired in­ter­ested em­ploy­ees to ap­ply for a po­si­tion by writ­ing two es­says re­spond­ing to the ques­tions, what does lead­er­ship mean to you and why do you want to be a man­ager? This al­lowed the as­ses­sors to eval­u­ate the par­tic­i­pant’s ef­forts as well as their writ­ten com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills. The ap­pli­ca­tion was then fol­lowed up with brief, in­for­mal, in-per­son in­ter­views fo­cus­ing on four be­havioural-based ques­tions.

Can­di­dates who passed these two screen­ing pro­cesses were screened again by higher level man­agers, hu­man re­source rep­re­sen­ta­tives and an ex­ter­nal as­sess­ment pro­fes­sional who en­gaged each in­di­vid­ual in a role-play­ing ex­er­cise, an “in-box” ex­er­cise and a psychometric as­sess­ment. Those who passed these steps were then placed on a three-week man­age­rial job shad­ow­ing term that again as­sisted with the “re­al­is­tic job pre­view” process. At each step of the process, in­di­vid­u­als were ob­served and given per­sonal feed­back.

At this point, the par­tic­i­pants were next placed in “act­ing man­age­rial” roles and at­tended weekly train­ing for a pe­riod of eight months. They re­ported to a se­nior man­u­fac­tur­ing man­ager who acted as their men­tor. They also re­ceived coach­ing ser­vices from Jan Ten­nant, an in­ter­nal HR pro­fes­sional.

The Boe­ing in­ter­nal lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment pro­gram has worked so well that all par­tic­i­pants from the first co­hort group have suc­cess­fully at­tained man­age­ment po­si­tions and will be com­plet­ing their pro­gram in June.

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