How to Infuse Success into Succession Planning

Succession planning is a strategic people objective in many organizations. It is the cornerstone of having the right people in the right jobs for the organization to meet its short and long-term goals.

Many organizations struggle with acquiring the right business, technical and leadership skills to drive performance and cultural results. The right complement of people is more difficult than buying a piece of equipment or software, yet senior leadership spends less time and investment dollars on this aspect of the business than making a capital decision.

Here’s the thing about succession planning. It does not have to be difficult or complicated. The power of the succession plan is in the discussion and execution of decisions made to develop or retain specific people in the organization. It does not require you to take action on every person in the organization. Scope is completely optional and is dependent on the risks associated with having the right people to meet business objectives.

Successful succession planning tasks senior leadership to be honest about employee potential – to have candid conversations, assess people accurately, work with each other across functional lines and commit to a solid platform or process for development.

Bottom line – it takes planning, focus, investment and execution – after all, it is a “human” capital project.

Organizations can establish metrics for succession planning. Once employees have been identified, the organization can determine:

  • Percentage or number of employees who are high potentials
  • Percentage or number employees who are key employees to retain
  • Goals for movement – promotion or development
  • Investment monies for development

The organization can measure the success of their planning and development process. Consider these areas:

  • Specific development plans were written down and communicated
  • Development plans were executed for each person
  • Specific development activities and the ROI in a particular development area
  • Planned moves or promotions made within the organization
  • Unplanned moves or promotions made within the organization
  • Turnover – how many left for a better opportunity
  • Employee removed from the succession planning candidate pool

Ideally, succession-planning metrics are established at the beginning of the year and evaluated at year-end. This approach provides opportunities to assess what metrics and outcomes require refinement and key topics for senior leadership team discussions.

Returning Company Property After Being Fired

Hello Lynn,

Myself and other former employees are hoping to commence a class action wrongful dismissal suit against our former employer. One of the former employees still has the company laptop, but he never signed anything, nothing in the contract making any reference to company property.

4121207_sI am not suggesting that he should keep it, but the company failed to pay him all his pay due to him and issue him an ROE (Record of Employment).

In Canada the ESA (Employment Standards Act) stipulates that an employee must receive any money (pay) due as well as an ROE within 48 hours of the last day worked.

My question is can he hang on to the laptop until they comply with the ESA and give him his correct pay and Record of Employment.

Reader from Canada

While I am not familiar with the ins and outs of Canada employment law, I do believe I can address the question raised from this reader – bear in mind I am working from an U.S.A. perspective though conceptually my opinions are probably sound.

When an employee is terminated from any company, there is an expectation that all company property will be returned. If it is not, the company has the right to withhold monies for the company property from the employee’s last paycheck or to seek legal action for retrieval.

I am not sure how your friend was let go – sometimes we are brutal in how we do things here in the U.S. One colleague was met at the airport before boarding a flight by his boss and was fired on the spot. They took his phone, laptop and keys to his company car and told him to figure out how to get back home.

He was in sales and the company’s intent was to confiscate all customer information and ensure that it did not go with him.

In our court system sometimes the burden of proof can be argued on what would a reasonable person do or think. In the event there was no paper trail or documentation about the company laptop, would the average person believe it belonged to the company or to themselves? I think you know the answer to that question.

So, if the ex-employee continues to hang onto the computer, can the company now imply that the ex-employee is trying to steal company property or worse yet – customer or confidential information? How could that affect the company’s strategic position in the marketplace? The web now becomes much more complex.

The fact is your friend will not win by holding the computer hostage; perhaps the company has grounds for not making final payment and filing the ROE because his firing is more complicated with company property outstanding. No one else has this problem in your group and my hunch is that no one else has company property.

When pursuing a wrongful termination class action case, it is imperative that you and your colleagues do everything squeaky clean. Don’t give the company any ammunition. If he is calling his character into question, it will affect the rest of the group’s credibility.

Finally, I did find a website that indicated a ROE does not have to be given to the employee, it can be sent directly to Service Canada. That may solve the ROE issue, but it does not address the last pay being held back.

Think Beyond Networking

You’ve heard it before; you need to be out networking. Perhaps you are scared or dislike doing it. Everyone is telling you to do it but for some reason you just can’t seem to get yourself out of the house to meet with people.

istock_000006168535xsmallConsider this – what does networking mean to you? Does it represent a crowded room with people you really don’t care about? Do you feel uncomfortable with initiating conversation or feel like you are constantly selling yourself and no one is buying? Think about what networking really represents to you. Write it down.

Now – let’s fast forward and assume that you are the best networker on this planet. You have reached the place you want to be – where is that? Are you in the job you want, have the life you dream of? What does that place look like? What does it represent to you? Safety? Security? Is it a place where you feel like you have arrived? Take a moment to visualize this place or ground yourself in the feeling – really connect with what it is like to be there.

Guess what? You have found what is beyond networking. That’s right; networking can be a means to an end – to be in the place you want.

Your challenge will be to push through that place where you feel stuck so you can reap the rewards of networking. To do that, you may have to acquire some skills or take some risks. It might be time to commit yourself to a new path – to do something different because what you have done is clearly not working.

You may have to get out of your comfort zone and head out into the unknown…and open yourself to being curious about how new experiences may open doors to getting to that place – the place where you have arrived.

Are You the First Interview? Close the Gap

Let’s say you are the first interview for a position with a company. When you arrive, the interviewer is not fully prepared. It is obvious that he doesn’t interview often. These two factors often point to an ill-fated interview experience.

istock_000006916716xsmallDespite the odds being stacked against you, the two of you have instant rapport. The conversation is easy and you can see yourself working there. During the discussion, he says all the right things such as “when you come back for the second interview, you will be talking to some other people” and he proceeds to tell you about them.

At the end of the interview, it’s time to ask about what to expect for next steps. He tells you that he will be interviewing three more people and hopes to invite the second round interview candidates the following week. You leave feeling that you have nailed the first interview, send your thank you note and await a call back.

Here’s the tip I want to share with you. I recommend contacting the interviewer at the beginning of next week before the second interview call back. Here is why.

You were the first interview for the position. Your inexperienced interviewer was getting his feet wet with you. While you had great rapport, he will get better at interviewing and will ask other questions that you may not have the opportunity to answer. Some of those answers may tilt the odds out of your favor.

Send your interviewer a note or call them and leave a message to let them know the following:

You realize that you were the first person to be interviewed by him and there may be some questions that arise with subsequent interviews that are important. You are available for a quick phone call to answer any of those questions so that they have all the information available before your decision on second round interviews.

It is a good practice to close any gaps in information prior to a company or interviewer moving to the next step. If you don’t you may just find you have been edged out.

Being Out of Work

This week, I received a letter from an Elephants at Work reader. I wanted to share their story because being out of work affects the family not just the person who is out of work. At the end of this post, I suggest some helpful tips.

eBook Cover - What To Do After Being FiredMy husband has been out of work for 2 years.  He was involuntarily terminated from his job. His salary was our family’s primary source of income. This entire situation has been a nightmare for all of us.

I have watched my husband become frustrated and mad at the world for different reasons.  Our home is filled with anxiety and tension. My children are teenagers and they have been directly impacted by our financial instability. My husband has filled out many job applications and each time the answer is the same…. no job offer.

My husband was a police officer for 15 years. Now, I don’t think my husband even knows who he is anymore. Clearly, we need help to find out how to help him get back on track. We can’t afford a consultation, but I will order your book.

I hope it provides us with answers, suggestions and tips about how to effectively fill out job applications. I prayed this morning and asked God for more guidance regarding my husband’s job loss. Then, a few moments later I came across Elephants at Work.  Hope your book helps us! THANK YOU.

Name withheld

The situation this ex-police officer and his family are facing may be what you are facing too. I would like to address two things about this letter – first the loss of ego and self from the husband and second, the effects of being out of work on the family.

I am not surprised your husband is questioning who he is after being out of work for two years. I have seen loss of ego and self in the unemployed in as little as a day. It is like a switch flipped.

Many people define who they are by the work that they do. When you lose your job, it takes a big blow to the ego. You deal with employer rejection and you try to figure out how to move forward. It is a chaotic time internally. You feel like you have lost your purpose in life.

For family providers and breadwinners – their role suddenly changes within the family dynamics. It requires families to rethink their lifestyle until they are able to secure employment. Sometimes the levels of pay they enjoyed are unobtainable and those lifestyle changes become permanent.

Let’s not ignore what is going on in the family. The changes of lifestyle affect them too. There may be arguments about money and sacrifices that family members endure that they don’t understand. For teenagers it is difficult because their peers may be able to do things they knew they could do if only… their father or mother were working. It is those unspoken thoughts that create more stress and conflict.

The culmination of these two things – the loss of work that defines someone and the changes in the role within the family create the perfect storm.

Here are some recommendations for you, your husband and family:

  • Your husband has a right to be mad and angry after being fired or laid off. It is important to figure out how to let go of that anger too. The anger will show up in an interview. Employers will sense anger and it may be a reason why he is not getting hired.
  • The loss of self and ego is real. It is a scary proposition to have to figure out who you really are when you thought you had it all together. Being out of work is catalyst to rethink priorities and to figure out what is really important to you. When you figure this out, you gain confidence and the path on how to get there becomes easier.
  • Engage the family in open dialogue and discussion about the elephant in the room – the financial situation and effect on each person. Have the discussion when everyone is calm – not during an incident. Ask everyone to do some homework ahead of time. Write down what is working well and what is not working well for them and share it with one another during your discussion. Have the kids share their information first. If they are hesitant, ask them to put their thoughts into a jar and one by one pull out a comment and discuss it. It will challenge you and your husband to be receptive to their thoughts and not to pass judgment. It is what they are feeling and is just as real as what both of you are feeling. The ability to air our concerns in a safe environment builds trust and unity. Together, all of you can decide what can be done and what cannot be done given your specific limitations.
  • Find a way to celebrate every small step or win. If you focus only on getting the job, it becomes overwhelming. Take every “no” as an opportunity to learn and develop your skills sets.

Finally, thank you for placing your trust and faith in my eBook, What to Do After Being Fired – I know that you will find many solutions to help you along this journey.

Setting Boundaries at Work with Your Boss         

How important is it to set boundaries at work with your boss? Do feel like you are being taken advantage of instead of feeling appreciated? Think about if any of these situations sound familiar:

  • 24865304_sYour personal and work cell phones are intertwined. It is difficult to ignore messages you receive after work hours. You find yourself answering the messages at all hours of the night, just so you can feel like you have a head start in the morning.
  • While on vacation, your boss calls your or emails you with urgent questions that need to be answered NOW.
  • Your boss sponsors your attendance at a certification or training session and is aware it runs from 8-5 each day. Nonetheless, he sends you messages throughout the day and expects you to spend your 10 minutes stretch breaks responding to non-crisis issues.

In each of these situations, your boss is setting the boundaries at work instead of you. While it may seem inappropriate to tell your boss “no”, it becomes a necessity if you want to keep your sanity and productivity while you are at work.

Telling your boss that you need to set boundaries at work requires you to be tactful and cool headed. It is not the time to approach your boss when you are angry because you feel used, abused or taken for granted.

The next time a situation like this happens, take a deep breath, let some time pass (preferably to the next day) and schedule some time with him to discuss the situation. It is important that you communicate the following:

  1. What was the situation that occurred?
  2. How did the situation affect you? Talk about the impact on your overall productivity.
  3. Why is it important for you to have breathing space or decompression time?
  4. Discuss strategies and boundaries for both parties to respect.
  5. Ask your boss for permission to push back if you find the situation re-occurring.

Changing behavior is difficult. Even if you boss agrees to the new boundaries at work, you may find him breaking them. The excuse will be…this is important or urgent. It is easy to get caught into the trap of those words – everything seems important. You may have to have this conversation a few times before your boss realizes how serious you are about setting boundaries at work.

Employee Coaching Forms are NOT Disciplinary Action Forms

We are in real trouble if we blur the line of what coaching is and what it is not when talking about discipline.

293746_sLast week someone shared with me that they might be receiving a report of employee coaching form. “What’s a report of coaching form?” I asked. I had never heard of one before being given in the circumstance she was describing. Well, it seems that her company uses an employee coaching form as a disciplinary write-up.

My first reaction – you have got to be kidding me. How wrong is that?

Let’s be clear – coaching is:

  • A supportive environment where people can explore options, test new capabilities without the fear of reprisal or judgment
  • An investment in personal and professional development

Now let’s look at what a disciplinary action is:

  • A corrective action
  • A process for communicating with an employee that their behaviors or performance is unacceptable
  • Written warnings, sometimes accompanied with suspensions

It seems pretty clear to me that the two activities – coaching and disciplinary action are very far apart in what they represent and how employees would perceive being apart of each process. Why blur the line? To be honest, it reflects a cowardly organization.

Here’s the danger about blurring the line on coaching and disciplinary actions in your organization:

  • Employees are confused – be clear about what is a positive moving forward action vs. a corrective action.
  • Most managers do not know how to use coaching skills effectively. Coaching skills are different from management or supervision skills.
  • Coaching will not be viewed as a development opportunity – they will think they have done something wrong.

It is impossible to soften what disciplinary action means and if you do soften it, the employee will not receive a clear message that they need to turn things around. Instead of trying to soften the action by using the coaching form term, invest and teach your managers how to handle disciplinary actions more effectively.

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