Talent Management with a Succession Planning focus

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Talent management is a main focus for HR professionals in 2018 and will continue in 2019.  HR Exchange Network editor Mason Stevenson sat down with Elkay Manufacturing Chief Human Resources Officer Larry Brand to discuss topic and items that fall under its umbrella, specifically succession planning.

Talent Management strategy:  Succession Planning

Mason: My name is Mason Stevenson, I’m the editor of the HR Exchange Network. Joining me today is Larry Brand, he is the chief human resources officer of Elkay Manufacturing. Mr. Brand thank you for joining us. I appreciate it.


Larry: Thank you Mason, it’s good to be here.


Mason: So we're going to talk about succession planning, it's a big thing for HR professionals. So, we want to really dive into that and talk about it in greater detail. My first question to you is this:  can you discuss the reason behind succession planning?

DOWNLOAD:  Building a Global Succession Planning Strategy

Larry: I think regardless of what kind of industry you’re in or what kind of business you run, the purpose of succession planning is to fulfill the future NEEDS of your company. In the market that we’re in today, hiring from the outside for a key position isn't a reasonable solution anymore. So, succession planning is a process every company needs to have to make sure they know where the gaps are, they know what talent they have in place and how to develop them in the upcoming years until the position is ready.


Mason: So what are some of the key points of succession planning? What are the goals involved there?


Larry: That's a good question. I know for us at Elkay, the key point is to make sure we know what our pipeline of talent is and how we create it.  We, like a lot of companies, do that through a very robust review process.  Each year, we have a full accounting of what our key positions are.  We look at the tail end of life for each one of those roles.  Then we decide who needs to prepare to take on those roles in the future.

Sometimes, we know we have gaps that... if that position become vacant over the short term... we’re going to be forced to recruit from the outside. So, the review process is probably the most important. The other piece which is probably a separate conversation is what are the training programs you need to have in place to develop that strength.


Mason: OK, so what is that process like? I know you mentioned that sometimes, you have to do it quick based on retirement or some other situation, but in an instance where you have some time, what is that process like; to find the right person to fit that specific position?


Larry: That’s another key question for succession planning, it's a long term process. So, if you want a succession plan in a hurry, you’re going to have a lot of challenges doing that. Ideally, three or five years out is the minimum.  You're looking at people perhaps that are at the senior manager or director level that you think one day can aspire up to a VP or C-Suite role. After you identify the person, you now need an individual development plan, what does that person bring to the table in terms of strengths? What are their developmental areas and then, most importantly, how are you going to get them ready?


Courtesy:  Stock Photo Secrets

Mason: Generally speaking, what's the time frame like when it comes to succession planning?


Larry: Well it's different for everybody, depending on what position and how ready they are or not for the role. But I would say succession planning is not a short term process.  It's something where you want to talk about somebody ideally for two or three years and see their development move along... because occasionally, you'll choose somebody to be a successor for a key role and two or three years down the road you'll realize they just don't have it in them.

Many times the person doesn't want it because, as you go up the ladder, there's a certain desire to stay where they are.  Sometimes things will happen in the person's personal life and it changes things for them, either in a positive or negative way. So, for us, having that discussion over a two-four year period allows us to make sure the person's ready.  


Mason: This is the last question. It has two parts.  Can you tell me about the process and how’s it’s impacted by cross generational issues?


Larry: That's another great question. Elkay will be one hundred years old in 2020, so we are like a lot of companies, where the lion's share of our senior level positions are filled with baby boomers and all of our up and coming talent are either very young or very old millennials.  The challenge is dealing with the fact that the layers of management have become so lean and have created gaps. I will use this as an example:  the gap between a CFO and the director of corporate finance is really broad, because the two people are doing different things.  Potential successors may not have broad enough skills to fill the CFO role.  This problem is just getting worse, not better.  That's because organizations continue to be lean.  They have to be in order to be profitable; be cost effective and yet you have this generation coming up that is well educated and they want to what it looks like to get up the ladder.

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So we're doing a number of different inter-generational cohorts, educational opportunities between our high potential leadership programs, bridging those gaps, sharing personal leadership stories of what's working and what's not working for people today and I would say the summary for this part of the question is this is more for the boomers and people like myself in the HR leadership role to figure out how we get the next generation ready.


Mason: Very good. Well, one thing is for sure... the HR space is certainly changing.


Larry: I would agree, it has never been a more exciting time to be a human resource professional or working in an HR leadership role. I don't pretend to be very objective about that, I’m very subjective about it, because I've seen my career last twenty years, there’s no more exciting or powerful time to be a leader on a leadership team.


Mason: Thank you Mr. Brand.


Larry: Thank you.


For more information on succession planning and a case study, click here.


Mason Stevenson
HR Exchange Network
Larry Brand
Chief Human Resources Officer
Elkay Manufacturing