Team Management

July 12, 2014

Continuing our theme of risk associated with employees one of our readers suggested that we share our views on workforce and succession planning or as we call it, Team Management. In other words continuity of the skills and values that you need to sustain your business.

Regular followers of our musings will know that we have an holistic approach to people management, everything is connected and no one aspect of people management can be singled out from everything else you do as a leadership team. Let's put this into context.

The problem of substituting team members goes away if you can keep who you have.  The first step in a succession plan is therefore to retain who you have:

  • Do all you can to engage your team and reduce turnover
  • Screening new recruits for fit and values reducing the need to weed out square pegs
  • Develop internal development opportunities and be bold with cross functional transfers and promotions. This will encourage innovation, lead to more strategic thinking and demonstrate to employees that they have the potential for a stretching career with you
  • Develop talent trading arrangements with other employers (e.g. suppliers, customers or partners). This may seem a radical idea but you will not be able to find developmental roles for everyone so allow them to develop elsewhere. With luck you may be able to hire them back later. Employees will appreciate the opportunity
  • Create arrangements to retain and incent older employees to train younger ones e.g. part time hours, flexible work days, incentives designed around life style
  • Be transparent about career opportunities in your organization - employees will figure it out anyway and be ahead of you

No matter how much planning goes into your engagement efforts people will still leave if for nothing else than too long with one employer is frowned upon today. Anticipate this.  There is no doubt that an enriched, engaged workforce is more likely to produce a successful appointment than searching externally however well you screen new candidates. Incidentally that doesn't mean you shouldn't screen internal candidates to further mitigate risk and in some depth, particularly if this is a more senior appointment with more at risk. With baby boomers leaving the workforce there will be fewer people out there with the right profile to replace them so Rule #1 is try to keep who you have.

Of course no organization remains static for long and new skills in both leadership and technical, will be needed as the business grows and so the next step is to look at staff planning with the future of your business in mind - not as it looks today.

  • Look at talent depth and skills needs directly after completing the strategic plan while business and organizational needs remain fresh in the mind
  • Develop a gap analysis between what you have today and what you envisage you will need and when
  • Determine how best to fill the gap; who could grow internally to fill these roles or functions, what training and development would be required, by when do you estimate that this will have to take place
  • The objective here is to avoid the risk of downtime. A talent plan should be constantly in motion preparing for tomorrow. Like a sports team, new players need to integrate seamlessly with minimum disruption to performance
  • Your plan must live and be front of mind during discussions about performance and career with employees. This will encourage a frank exchange about potential and opportunity and promote engagement

The traditional succession plan was typically a dusty tomb that remained on the shelf until an event occurred that warranted its reference. Demonstrating that you had completed the process reassured investors that management had at least thought about the future. Modern businesses are lean and the business environment does not permit leisurely consideration:

  • There will increasingly be fewer candidates available
  • Younger managers are encouraged not to remain with one employer for an extended period
  • Your competitive differentiation depends upon internal skills and knowledge
  • Customer expectations demand continuous service

Successful Team Management incorporates ongoing retention, succession and recruitment strategies to ensure a sustainable business - it is not a periodic event.

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