Sunday, 29 November 2015

From Recruitment to Succession Planning: A Constructive Approach to Human Capital Development

The primary concern of recruiters is that of attracting and selecting the right person for the appropriate position, that is to say seeking, finding and hiring the so-called perfect match or best fit for each role. To successfully attain their objectives recruiters need, first and foremost, to pinpoint what the real organizational need is and hence meet the employer, or rather, as it usually occurs in practice, the hiring manager expectations.
Recruiters and hiring managers habitually formulate job posts on the basis of the unit current needs and of the requirements necessary to properly perform the vacant role, but in some others instances these aim at recruiting individuals who, in addition to properly fill the current vacancy, have the qualities and the potential to perform more demanding and complex activities in the future.
Individuals on the other hand do no longer aim at finding just a job, but rather at being hired by organizations which can offer them a meaningful role, a pleasant workplace, flexible working arrangements, a competitive salary, valuable benefits and opportunities for growth. More often than not, recruiters’ task, especially whether not supported by a strong employer branding, may hence prove to be particularly daunting to perform. Employers, albeit with some difficulties, can virtually fulfil all of these expectations, but can hardly ensure to all of their employees what they care for the most, to wit: genuine, practical and valuable career prospects.
In many instances, after the initial excitement generated by the new position vanishes into thin air and individuals realize that their current employer cannot offer them any further opportunities for growth, people make the drastic decision to leave their employer. “I’m looking for a new challenge” is a phrase recruiters are very acquainted with. In some cases it hides a different true, but in the vast majority of the circumstances people do leave their employer in that they genuinely aim at working in a different, more varied and challenging environment.
Offering genuine opportunities for growth to all of its employees clearly represents a virtually impossible task for any employer; yet, all too often individuals overestimate their abilities and potential so that these easily establish unrealistic expectations, which employers can hardly fulfil. This clearly represents a conundrum for many employers, but the adoption of a forward-looking and in many respects creative approach to human capital management can indeed help employers to meet the increasingly challenging expectations of both talented and less talented individuals.
Inasmuch as employers need talented individuals, that is to say people who possess, typically but not necessarily inborn, remarkable capabilities, which enable these to effectually perform complex tasks and take high degrees of responsibility; employers need less talented but capable and reliable individuals who perform less complex activities not entailing any particularly considerable degree of responsibility, but which are equally important for the organization to attain its performance objectives. It clearly emerges that employers need the genuine contribution of all their employees; investing and retaining them, albeit at two different levels, is thus crucially important.
In order for employers to attain this particularly significant and ambitious objective, these should adopt a constructive approach to human capital development aiming at meeting, albeit in a different fashion, the expectations of all of their employees.

Table 1
The final objective of this model is that to invariably ensure employers to properly fill the key positions necessary to help them to identify the appropriate organizational direction, whereas being able to bank on the right individuals for pursuing it. The underpinning assumption is that for an employer to attain competitive edge over its competitors this needs to obtain the genuine contribution of all of its employees and ensure and secure to all of them a compelling, interesting and varied job.
In some instances, the abilities and skills of an individual might not immediately emerge so that taking care of all of the employees may enable organizations to identify talents anytime. Conversely, individuals who seem to have some innate abilities may later prove not to have the skills and qualities to fill roles entailing higher level of responsibility. Employers must hence be extremely prudent and careful when preparing their employees’ career path. An employee of the shop floor would perform much better whether his/her employer should suddenly propose this a different role or career prospects, whereas it is highly likely that an individual already classified as a talent would completely lose his/her interest in the organizational success whether an employer should not keep the career undertaking previously given.
Career planning
Once an employer has identified, or has recruited, the individuals who possess the organization’s most sough-after qualities, the first activity the relevant HR specialists should perform, in order to mould and nurture these qualities, is that to discuss and plan with these individuals their plan of development. Since organizations are nowadays subject to an incessant process of change, career planning should be left rather “open.” The plan agreed by employers with the identified individuals must clearly meet their expectations but should not be preferably necessarily aimed at covering a specific, pre-identified role or position. The adoption of such an approach enables employers to develop individuals who, rather than being prepared to only fill a specific role, have gained the skills, abilities and experience to fill a set or range of different roles.
Career planning should invariably meet individuals’ aspirations, be compatible with their traits and potentials, but should also definitely ensure employers to duly fill the roles, not exclusively concerned with leadership and executive positions, these consider as most strategic and demanding to be properly filled.
This activity might clearly also be seen as a pre-stage of succession planning; it can in fact constantly offer employers fresh insights into the individual potential.
Vertical and horizontal internal mobility
Internal mobility enables employers to attain some particularly significant objectives, to wit: enable individuals to gain and broaden their experience, develop their skills and enhance their capability.
Since vertical mobility entails an increased level of responsibility and individuals undertaking more complex activities, which according to the local legislation may require a grade and pay increase, employers should be careful in the adoption of this unquestionably valuable approach. Repeated short-term assignments, during which individuals are coached and supervised by senior managers, should in general protect employers against legal action.
Internal mobility must be planned to pursue a specific and functional objective, that is, enable individuals to expand their experience and gain the skills necessary for these to perform the activities and fill the roles required and identified by the employer. For leadership and executive positions, for instance, having experience of how the different units and functions of the organizations are managed and operated may prove to be extremely beneficial. What matters the most is that every phase and stage of each individual career path serves the identified scope so that each individual can establish a clear line-of-sight between his/her activities and the final objective of his/her career path.
International Mobility
The old stereotype of people resisting traveling and moving abroad, with some rare exceptions, can be nowadays considered completely overcome. People are now very keen and eager to move abroad and experience new lifestyles and different cultures. International mobility would be hence absolutely welcomed by employees and in many respects it is also very likely that individuals decide to join a specific organization hoping that his may offer them such type of opportunity.
In terms of personal and professional development, international mobility unquestionably represents a priceless asset for individuals and for employers, too. The introduction of international mobility practises can in fact contribute to effectually enhance the employer branding, that is, its capability to attract talents from the exogenous environment and heighten the effectiveness of its retention programmes. The findings of a recent study conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) and L’OrĂ©al UK and Ireland (Uppala and Jayasuriya, 2015) revealed that global career not only positively influences retention practices, but also individual productivity.
The benefits of global career are indeed far-reaching also for employers. Many organizations are undergoing global restructuring plans; yet, the loss of some customers or the occurrence of other possible contingencies at large can account for employers do no longer requiring particular types of talent in some of their branches. The early introduction of international mobility programmes, by giving employers the opportunity to pinpoint how people would practically behave and feel in a different country and under different circumstances, can enable these to eventually make rapid, efficient and informed decisions.
The objective of international mobility programmes is basically the same as that of internal mobility, to wit: enable individuals to gain and broaden their experience under new and utterly different circumstances. The country, branch, organization, department or unit will be clearly identified according to the employer needs, but these must invariably serve the pre-identified purpose.
Succession planning
Career planning, internal mobility and international mobility can all be considered as pieces of the same jigsaw. To fit their position on the final picture, nonetheless, each piece must contribute a specific, but necessary, functional and valuable ability, skill and experience so that the overall picture can fully meet the initial, or deliberately later altered, employer and employee expectations.
Succession planning is habitually concerned with the identification of individuals who have the potential to fill executive-directors, executive non-directors and senior management positions, but employers should also accurately map their organization’s roles and identify those which whether not timely and properly filled may make a negative impact on organizational performance. The next stage is that to develop the most appropriate plan of action to prepare individuals to effectively fill the roles considered as strategic by employers.

Taking heed of the positions these individuals will be called to fill, a particular importance has to be given to soft-skills. It is in fact highly unlikely that the individuals identified may not be technically competent and prepared. Yet, by means of the plan of action identified and executed by employers, technical competencies will be constantly and in many respects naturally nurtured. These are indeed easier to gain, whereas soft-skills, increasingly considered of paramount importance by employers and at the same time increasingly hard to find, require much more efforts and are thus more difficult to gain, albeit being fundamental for the individuals destined to fill leadership positions. As maintained by Younger et al (2007), the main objective is to elicit individual “growth from within.”
Whether succession planning is concerned with technical roles which do not imply any people management activity, its focus might be mostly narrowed to concentrate on the development of technical expertise. Nonetheless, it is hardly imaginable that these individuals might work in isolation so that their soft-skills should be in any case properly developed and nurtured.
Different employers clearly have different needs, but at this moment in time it can be contended that leadership qualities, change management abilities and project management expertise, just to name a few examples, should invariably be at the centre of these programmes. It is up to employers to identify the ideal ability-mix according to the different roles, their content and the organization present and expected future requirements.
Talent management
The overall process should be clearly underpinned by sound and effective talent management practices. Implementing talent relationship management, aiming at creating a great place to work, and talent engagement programmes is definitely crucially important (Armstrong, 2009). The efforts required to build and strengthen the existing relationships are well-worth and preferable to rebuild these relationships from scratch whether and when individuals should leave the organization (Sears, 2003).
Career planning, performance management and learning and development are all essential part of the process, but organizations should also avert overlooking to adequately reward and recognize people. Employers should hence constantly monitor the relevant labour market rates and trends in order to offer their talents competitive pay rates and valuable flexible and voluntary benefits programmes.
Talent management does not represent a daunting feat only for employees, but for employers too, it in fact requires “high quality management and leadership from the top and from senior managers and the HR function” (Armstrong, 2009).
As discussed earlier, employers also need to bank on skilled and engaged individuals to ensure the regular unfolding of their business operations and secure the constant attainment of the required level of organizational performance.
Recruitment and selection is clearly important also in this case; not only have individuals to fit the organization’s culture, but these also need to possess the technical skills or the potential required by the employer and exhibit and maintain the desired standard of behaviour.
Horizontal internal mobility
As a general rule, whether individuals have not showed to have the capabilities and abilities required to fill leadership roles, employers should preferably offer these employees lateral mobility opportunities. Management decisions should invariably be impartial and completely free from every form of bias; yet, whether individuals should manifest with the passing of time to have developed the abilities required by the employer, these should be enabled to have access to the career programmes implemented within the organization.
Horizontal mobility enables employees to broad their experience and expand their abilities, without any need to fil more complex roles or positions carrying higher degrees of responsibility. Nonetheless, these opportunities habitually account for individuals to derive intrinsic benefits from their job and being hence more engaged and motivated. Employers on the other hand by means of these programmes can further promote their employer branding and, more importantly, multi-tasking and the flexible organization model.
Lateral movements need to be promoted and hence perceived by individuals as a form of recognition; as such, these opportunities should be offered only to those individuals who have showed genuine commitment and effectively contributed to organizational success.
Whether an organization, by reason of its size, is unable to offer such opportunities to its employees, this may try to negotiate a specific agreement with its suppliers, contractors and business partners, eventually offering to reciprocate the “favour.” A breath of fresh air now and then would prove to be beneficial also for the employees to whom these opportunities cannot be offered.
International assignments
Visiting foreigner countries on assignment represents a great experience for employees; it is highly likely that they will discuss their experience with each of their friends and post photos and comments on social media. Employees will thus inadvertently become employer’s advocates, effectively contributing to the employer branding. Individuals do prefer gaining knowledge of organizations’ culture and workplaces from employees, rather than from employers.
Organizations should clearly make all the necessary arrangements to ensure that during their assignment employees feel comfortable and at ease, the effects produced by their experience may otherwise prove to be particularly detrimental for the employers’ reputation.
The main scope of international assignments is not clearly that to offer employees a paid holiday abroad so that their experience should in any case serve the employer purpose, to wit: contribute to develop and expand individual capabilities and enhance the employer’s retention practices.
Participation in orientation and internal training programmes
Managers and HR daily perform countless activities, insofar as finding at times it difficult to cope with all of them. How many of these activities may be actually performed with the help of employees? Involving these, for instance, in the development and implementation of the orientation programmes offered to new recruits and in the provision of technical training can prove to be a win-win move for employers and employees.
HR and managers need to be creative in this sense; the workplace offers indeed several opportunities to involve individuals in a number of corporate activities to which every individual can give a valuable contribution.
Whereas the plan aiming at developing particularly talented individuals should be underpinned and at the same time contribute to enhance an organization talent management practices, the activities offered to the rest of the employee population should considerably help organizations to enhance their employer branding and retention practices. To gain competitive edge, employers need first and foremost a skilled and inimitable human capital so that the resources invested in these forms of programmes would definitely prove to produce a sorely appreciable return; resources invested in further strengthening the effectiveness of the most significant organizational resource.
To properly and consistently plan for the future and ensure employers to duly have the abilities required to develop and execute their strategy, HR and hiring managers should ideally invariably take heed of all of these aspects when planning to recruit new individuals and develop these.
Longo, R., (2015), From Recruitment to Succession Planning: A Constructive Approach to Human Capital Development; Milan: HR Professionals, [online].