Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Effective Succession Planning


Recommended Reading

Effective Succession Planning. Ensuring Leadership Continuity and Building Talent from Within, William Rothwell, 2001

Succession Planning and Management

Businesses have always needed some form of succession planning. After all, no one lives forever, or heads a company or a division forever. Now more than ever, succession planning is a must. Because rapid turnover has become a way of life in corporate circles — from the top down through every level of employment — businesses that don’t plan strategies for meeting their future talent needs will face disruption when key employees retire or leave.

Every business needs to create, revitalise or even re-evaluate its succession planning and management (SP&M) program. A proven, step-by-step approach can ensure that you:

• Identify competencies and clarify values for planning and managing succession.

• Plan for and quickly fill crucial vacancies at all levels.

• Develop and retain top talent.

• Build and preserve your organization’s intellectual capital.

• Assess current needs and future resources.

• Use online and other technological tools to organize and implement SP&M programs.

• Anticipate — not just react to — changes in the increasingly variable business environment.

Succession planning and management is vital for four basic reasons:

1. The continued survival of the organization depends on having the right employees in the right positions at the right times.

2. As a result of economic restructuring in organizations, fewer people are available to advance to the top ranks from among current employees.

3. Succession planning and management encourages organizational diversity.

4. Succession forms the basis for communicating career paths, establishing development and training plans and creating a better human resources planning system.

Organizations create SP&M programs to provide increased opportunities for employees with high potential, to identify replacement needs, to target necessary training and to increase the pool of promotable employees.

 Creating Your Program

Creating a systematic SP&M program is a multi-step, on-going process. Even when you have a plan in place, you should continually re-assess it as your company’s needs change.

In creating or evaluating a succession program, your company should:

• Assess current problems and practices.

• Link SP&M activities to existing organizational and human resource strategies.

• Determine organizational requirements.

• Create a mission statement.

• Benchmark SP&M practices in other organizations.

• Write policies and procedures.

• Obtain and build management’s commitment to systematic SP&M.

• Set program priorities and clarify program rules.

• Address the legal framework.

• Identify target groups.

• Establish strategies for rolling out the program.

• Prepare and disseminate the program’s action plan.

• Conduct SP&M meetings and training.

• Conduct on-going counseling with managers about succession planning in their areas.

 The Developmental Gap

For your succession planning and management program to succeed, you need a method for replacing key employees who leave. Promotion from within is always an option, but it must be accompanied by planning. To prepare people for promotion, you have to do more than identify present and future requirements and evaluate performance. You must also identify and close the developmental gap between what possible successors do now and what they must be able to do to be ready to be promoted. Use internal development — planned training, education, development and other means — to close the gap so you can be confident that chosen successors are ready.

Your organization should take these steps regarding succession and the development gap:

• Test your organization’s bench strength — it’s ability to fill vacancies from within.

• Create your organization’s internal promotion policy.

• Prepare development plans for individual candidates.

• Develop successors internally.

• Assess alternatives as necessary.

 Alternatives to Internal Development

Sometimes, no successor is needed because a position can be left vacant. This alternative is only viable if the organization can answer yes to one of these questions:

• Is the key position no longer necessary?

• Can it be rendered unnecessary by finding new ways to achieve comparable results?

• Can the duties be redistributed to a team in the same part of the organization?

• Can the work be outsourced?

• Can the duties be reallocated to other parts of the organization?

• Can the key position be rendered unnecessary by using flexible staffing?

• Can a combination of these approaches obviate the need for a replacement?


Evaluating SP&M Programs

After you implement a SP&M program, you must monitor it to determine how well it functions and what changes may be needed. To evaluate the program on four levels — overall reaction, program progress, effective placements and organizational results — ask these questions:

• How well does succession planning match individual career plans?

• How satisfied are the internal customers with the succession planning programs?

• How well are individuals progressing through their development in preparation for future promotion?

• How well does the succession planning program work based on its objectives?

• Can some vacated positions be left vacant?

• How quickly can internal replacements perform in their new positions at the level required by the organization?

• What percentage of key vacancies can the organization now fill successfully?

• How quickly can the organization fill these vacancies?

• What percentage of vacancies can the organization fill internally?

• What organizational successes and failures can be attributed solely to succession planning?

• How is succession planning contributing to organizational results?

You can conduct the evaluation of your succession planning and management package anecdotally, periodically or programmatically.

Anecdotal evaluation examines the operation of the SP&M program on a case-by-case basis. As vacancies occur, the appropriate manager should document how they are filled.The organization’s SP&M committee can then review and discuss reports on each case. This method provides a solid foundation for troubleshooting and can provide a basis for handling similar concerns in the future. Anecdotal evaluation draws attention to particularly good and bad practices, providing a catalyst for change.

Periodic evaluation examines the components of your SP&M plan at different times, focusing attention on the program’s operations at present or in the recent past. Unlike the more global anecdotal evaluation, this method focuses only on isolated program components. For example, evaluation may focus on mission, program objectives, policy, philosophy, methods of determining work requirements for specific positions, employee performance appraisals, evaluation of employee potential and individual training and development. Periodic evaluation can be conducted during regular SP&M meetings, SP&M committee meetings or special evaluation committee meetings. Periodic evaluation can provide occasional formal monitoring of the program. This builds involvement while creating an opportunity to focus attention on operational problems. However, the main disadvantage of periodic evaluation is that it makes SP&M improvement an incremental rather than a continuous effort. This has the potential of letting problems fester for too long before they are addressed.

Programmatic evaluation examines SP&M comprehensively, measuring it against its stated mission and objectives. An appointed committee or a consultant usually carries out this in-depth program review. Committee members generally include the CEO, the SP&M program coordinator, representatives of pivotal management areas and members of the corporate board of directors.

 The Future of Succession Planning and Management

Changing external environmental conditions affect all organizations and play a role in succession planning. In the future, succession planning and management will:

• Prompt efforts to create flexible strategies to address future talent needs.

• Lead to retention policies and procedures that identify high-potential talent earlier,

retain that talent and preserve the involvement of older high-potential employees.

• Be influenced increasingly by real-time technological innovations.

• Become an issue in government agencies, academic institutions and nonprofits.

• Lead to increasing organizational openness about possible successors.

• Increasingly become intertwined with career development issues.

• Be heavily influenced by concerns about the balance between work and family, and by spiritual issues.

• Become a management issue to companies around the world.

Succession issues are front and centre in the United States, since the number of people expected to join the workforce between the traditional entry-level ages of 25 and 34 will decrease 8.8% by 2006. At the same time, the age category between 55 and 64 is expected to increase by 54% as more people reach traditional retirement ages. This trend is reflected in global population predictions. Because of these demographics, succession issues will emerge as a major challenge in many countries by 2025, leading organizations of every size to devote unprecedented attention to these issues, particularly the employment of older workers.


Brand from the Inside


Recommended Reading

Brand from the Inside. Eight Essentials to Emotionally Connect Your Employees to Your Business, Libby Sartain and Mark Schumann, 2006

Libby Sartain was, until earlier this year, Yahoo’s Chief People Officer, so what she writes is worth reading. She reads the Discussions in the Employer Branding group on LinkedIn, so you can have a discussion with her. Mark Schumann is a senior exec with Towers Perrin. They have written a number of books together. This is a light summation of their 2006 book.

Marketing own the brand, right? And they jealously guard it – “Don’t risk the brand!” they scowl at you when you make a suggestion for your job advertising! But if you want to deliver exceptional service, your branding program should really begin with your employees: when employees feel an emotional connection with a company, they deliver exceptionally good service, which your customers will recognise and appreciate. This is why Sartain coined the phrase earlier this month on the LinkedIn group “HR is the new Marketing”. This book could be a powerful ally when trying to co-opt Marketing into your way of doing things. Your employer branding campaign should include eight essential activities.


How customers view your brand determines whether they like, trust and buy your products. If your brand breaks its promises, your customers may turn away. Conversely, when a brand delivers excellent service or quality, that can have a halo effect on your entire product line. Brands can accelerate sales and customer acceptance.

The best brands generate emotions that overpower common sense. For example, why do people pay over £2 for a cup of coffee at Caffe Nero when they could brew it at home for pennies or buy it elsewhere in a caff for 50p? Millions pick up pricey cappuchinos every day, but the individual decision to grab a high end cup of coffee has nothing to do with reason.

When customers identify with your brand, it achieves a new level of influence. For other examples of such powerful branding, turn to Lego and Disney. Legoland stands for creativity; Disneyland a happy childhood. Consumers feel an emotional connection with these brands. I can vouch for this being a parent!

Employees also have a relationship with your brand. When people believe in a company, they feel good about working for it and delivering on its promises to customers. What Sartain and Schumann are suggesting is that you should discover what customers think of your offering.

“If the brand doesn’t live on the inside, it can’t thrive on the outside.”


A 2005 worldwide study found that HR professionals see a company’s brand as the essence of what it communicates internally and externally. The same study found that 60% of companies planned to start employee branding campaigns, which include many of the same components as customer-directed campaigns.

In a customer-directed campaign, you make promises to customers; in an employee campaign, you make promises to employees. In both cases, you must honour your promises.

An employee campaign should connect your brand’s promises to customers with its promises to employees. Both branding exercises must complement your company’s business strategy.

A study by Yahoo! found that 94% of job hunters said they had to believe in a company’s mission to accept a position with it. Companies with strong brands get good recruiting results. 79% of HR professionals believed that employees ranked companies with strong employer brands as top places to work. When employees feel an emotional link to a company, they are more likely to remain with the organisation when it experiences hard times or intense competition. This is why internal branding is important in meeting HR goals.

Make sure employees understand your brand – which means more than just ascertaining that they are familiar with your products and how they work. They must learn what your brand represents to customers and why the brand inspires them. Encourage employees to use the brand. Hallmark, for example, gives employees greeting cards to use.

“Any business, in any corner of the world, must create an experience to engage its employees before it can expect those employees to deliver the brand to customers.”


If you don’t intentionally develop an internal brand, one, or a number, will develop anyway. An informal employee brand may do a fine job of representing the company positively and accurately. However, if it doesn’t, you must correct the problem by making sure that you are communicating the right values to your employees and customers. Ask employees and marketing executives to answer the following questions, and use their responses to diagnose how well you are conveying your internal message and to formulate your internal branding strategy:

• Do those who work here understand what the brand promises?

• How strongly do they believe in the brand’s promises?

• Can staff members do more to deliver what the brand promises?

• Does the brand support the company’s recruiting efforts?

“The key to employer branding is tapping the emotional essence of the company and its brand, and using that emotional essence to frame and articulate the employee experience.”


When you plan and prepare an internal branding campaign, your goals are:

• To generate more revenue.

• To reduce talented employee turnover.

• To enhance recruitment potential.

Internal branding should become part of your business plan – however, don’t overstate what branding can accomplish. A change-resistant corporate culture, road blocks from company leaders and departmental turf battles can become obstacles to any campaign.

Although a good employer brand can reduce the amount you spend on recruiting and replacing employees, branding campaigns cost money. You may need to invest in research, the services of an ad agency to communicate your new messages and additional HR support, if the plan involves significant change.

In most companies, internal branding is the HR department’s responsibility. Depending on the type of business and the project’s scope, staff members from marketing, corporate communication, customer service, the call centre, sales and IT may also get involved. All these disparate people must learn to work as a team.


To carry out the plan, the team should take the following steps:

• Set ground rules – Specify the problem. Is there too much turnover? Cynicism? Are new competitors eroding sales and taking your customers? The team should analyse the effects on the brand of both external and internal factors.

• Perform research – Research can help you define your company’s essence, or what your brand means to your customers – which is not the same as what your product does. For example, Hallmark’s essence is “enriching lives.” Harley-Davidson’s is “we fulfill dreams.” Heinz’s is “doing a common thing uncommonly well.” Anheuser-Busch’s is “we will add to life’s enjoyment.”

• Set attainable goals – Specify objectives for each key area: the company, the brand, the market, and prospective, current and former employees.

• Communicate the goals – Everyone in the organisation should know and understand the goals. The team should develop a creative “big idea” that inspires employees and conveys what the company represents.

Implement the employer-branding process whenever you experience major staff changes or other significant shifts, such as a merger. Communicate your employer brand in all your marketing, policy and operational efforts.

“Brands paint the picture a customer steps into.”

“A brand can connect a customer to what a business is all about – its character, personality and values.”

“At their heart, brands touch the soul, excite the mind, satisfy the need and motivate the action.”


Your employee brand must meet employees’ expectations. Don’t frustrate your staff with a gap between what the brand promises and what it delivers. Make your promises clear; for example, FedEx’s “purple promise” to employees includes a compensation package and a rewards programme.

Break down distinctions between employees and customers by regarding your employees as internal customers. The HR department should insure that employees are aware of the employer brand at every stage of their life-cycle with the company:

• Noticing the company.

• Deciding it is an attractive place to work.

• Applying for a job.

• Joining the company.

• Working.

• Leaving.

• Remembering the work experience.


Share your employer brand messages with everyone the company touches: customers, the community, employees, regulators and competitors. The Internet, with its capacity to spread messages instantly around the world, has changed the way organisations communicate. You must explain what your company does, and how it benefits customers and employees.

When UPS changed its company logo in 2003, it gave every employee a small package containing a pin and a message from the company president explaining the reasons for the logo change, and how the new logo would look on company vehicles and packaging.

Hallmark uses another creative way to deliver its company message. Its annual employee brand conference puts participants in the mood to receive a positive message. Employees explain how the company and its products have enriched their lives. Company artists and writers discuss how they create the cards. The goal of the event is to help employees understand the business and to strengthen their belief in the company mission.

Washington Mutual appointed 75 brand managers, representing all lines of business nationwide. “Brand rallies” around the country had a 95% employee-participation rate.

To communicate your employer brand, follow these steps:

• Recognise that emotions are powerful communication tools.

• Re-evaluate your employee-communication programme&

• Tell the truth. A 2003 study found that only 51% of employees believed what their companies said, and only 48% believed senior management.

• Involve senior management in telling the story.

• Train key personnel to be employer brand advocates.

• Explain how employees benefit from working for the company: WIIFM. Then, explain again.

• Demonsdrate the business’s personality. Southwest Airlines, which has a reputation as a fun place to work, holds job-recruitment auditions, where interviewers encourage candidates to sing.

“Only by addressing each stage of an employee’s experience can you truly make an employer brand come to life.”

“To make the employer brand real for your employees, emotionally and functionally, it must live during each part of each day of an employee’s experience.”

“Your business must create a multisensory experience for your employees in which the  brand is present all around.”

“Ultimately, an employer brand is only as successful as the way in which it directs the choices people make every day.”


Once you’ve created and communicated your message, it will take on a life of its own in the workplace, through daily interactions between individuals and among small groups.

All of your senior managers should reinforce the branding effort by embodying what the brand represents.

To keep the branding program focused, monitor feedback from employees and customers.

Determine whether the brand is meeting employee expectations. Use focus groups and surveys to be sure that the customer brand and the employer brand are aligned. On the UPS “brand exchange” website, customers, suppliers and the community interact. The site protects the brand and ensures that everyone has a consistent experience.


• When employees feel connected to your company, they provide good service.

• See your employees as internal customers; create an employer brand for them.

• Half of HR managers view the company brand as “the essence of our offering” and say that their companies conduct some form of employee branding.

• Your employer brand must meet your employees’ expectations.

• To create your employer brand, know the brand’s essence.

• Take the following eight steps: discover, commit, diagnose, prepare, create, apply, market, nurture.

• Factors such as your reputation, corporate culture, workplace conditions, ethics and career growth opportunities shape your employer brand.

• Work to create trust. In one study, only 51% of employees believed what their companies said and only 48% believed statements from senior management.

• Revisit your employer brand whenever there is a merger or staff change, and in all marketing, communication, policy and operational efforts.

• To convey your company’s message, sponsor an event such as a conference that creates a receptive mood.

To temper what Sartain and Schumann wrote in 2006, the general argument in Direct Resourcing Think Tanks has been that organisations can no longer own or control their employer brand reputation. While once a business could implement an employer branding strategy and related messaging with stellar results, such as being named one of the best places to work, getting positive media attention and becoming the subject of academic and corporate case studies, this control has been usurped by social media, peer-to-peer publishing and online rating services. The shift in power renders all but the most strategic and well-executed efforts virtually ineffective.

Talent acquisition experts can no longer push out a message to those they wish to recruit unless the message is authentic and the experience inside the company mirrors the message.  Any disconnect puts the organisation, and the ability to recruit, at risk.

A business can stay in the driver’s seat of their brand reputation by creating an authentic experience for workers that begins before a prospective worker even thinks about a business as a place to work and ends with an active alumnus who is a fan of the business as a place to work. But this is hard work and requires the participation of everyone involved with the enterprise. It means that the website has to message what is really going on in the organisation. The candidate experience mirrors what the worker will experience on the job and will be the best first impression.

Once onboard, HR programmes should be consistently delivered as branded products and services. Leaders and co-workers influence, more than anyone else, what a worker experiences day in and day out. It means that day to day behaviour must be consistent with the employer brand promise. To have any control over the brand, an employer must screen for people with behavioural attributes that are aligned with the brand when hiring.

I do think that the Sartain book gives you in HR some strong arguments to co-opt your Marketing Department. In the worst case, they will help you confront Marketing, defeat their argument that they are the sole owner of the brand, and force them to get you in HR & Talent Acquisition onside.

A final word: as a recruiter, what management reports would you need to measure your employer brand?

Alumni returns, numbers of speccy CVs sent in via your website that you then interview or put into a talent pool, referrals as a percentage of total hires, retention of grade 1 performers, ratio of offers to accepts, and ratio of candidates who withdraw themselves during the recruitment process against those whom you reject. What other reports could you produce that would reflect on your employer brand?

Gurus, Hired Guns, and Warm Bodies


Recommended reading

Gurus, Hired Guns, and Warm Bodies: Itinerant Experts in a Knowledge Economy by Stephen R. Barley, Gideon Kunda

These are the three types of non-permanent employee. What struck me most was that the gurus are the very best at their jobs, never want for work, and as such never need to be permanent staff because they earn far more! They often call themselves interims to differentiate themselves from contractors and temps, but that is in fact what they are. The very cleverest employer should target these gurus, and either make them permanent members of staff, or attach them to apprentices to make the organisation richer.

I have a detailed synopsis. If you ask for it here, I will email it to you …