Why Plan for Succession?

 In recent months the headlines have been filled with speculation as to whether the world economies are headed for full blown recession or a ‘slow down’. Whatever the conclusion signals of a financial crisis are here with oil and food prices rising in the US, Europe and in Barbados; also there have been significant Fed rate cuts, seven since September 07 when the rate was 5.25%, bringing the rate to a record low of 2.00%.

Economic movements like this make shareholders nervous as they opt for a ‘wait and see’ approach before determining their next move. In addition, it can trigger a slow down in consumer spending at best or consumer panic at worst. For businesses cost containment and cost management strategies start to come into play, re-defining and re-classifying ‘critical spend’, there are even those who opt for a more drastic approach reviewing headcount numbers.

In uncertain times if a leader is seen to leave an organisation unexpectedly the backlash from a PR perspective alone can be unforgiving, fuelling further uncertainty amongst current and future shareholders and subsequent calls for action. Furthermore it is not altogether unusual to see leaders abandoning ship or even switching allegiances and heading for the competition. But the damage doesn’t end there, invariably what transpires is they convince their star players to join them and they do so with valuable networks and business in tow!

The ability then to be able to smoothly transition another leader into a role recently vacated will do much to quell fears, whilst demonstrating vision and more importantly will likely reduce the overall negative impact to productivity. In essence it is those organisations with an effective succession plan in place that will be able to withstand the rigours of an ever-changing economic landscape.

So what is succession planning and how does it benefit organisations?

Succession planning can be broadly defined as identifying future potential leaders to fill key positions (Source: CIPD).

Succession planning is a critical strategic tool in the fight to attract and retain talent. The benefits are numerous including:

– ensuring the right people are moving into the right roles at the right time
– sending a strong message to employees that the organization prefers to look within to fill critical roles that become vacant
– enabling organisations to identify talented individuals and provide opportunities to develop them for future higher level and/ or broader responsibilities
– promoting greater transparency, openness, fairness and objectivity with respect to discussions centred around performance

Succession planning is not a quick fix to the leadership ails of an organisation. It takes a leader with long-term vision to recognise the benefits of an effective succession planning programme. Great leaders do not just turn up at the doorstep on demand, and, whilst some of your current employees may show a natural aptitude for leading and inspiring others, the development of their leadership potential is just as crucial as the development needs of other employee within the organisation.

Our regional market consists predominantly of small – medium sized enterprises; (SME’s); many of these being small family-run businesses. Succession planning for SME’s is challenging because frequently ‘the Board’, if there is one, consists of family members and there is usually an inherent assumption that someone in the family will take up the reins once the incumbent leader has retired their post. With increased flexibility in the labour market, both international and regional opportunities abound, and these are often more attractive to the potential family successor than inheriting the family business. In such cases organisations are often vulnerable to stagnation as the incumbent leader, perhaps a father hoping his son/ daughter will succeed, often has unrealistic expectations that they may still change their mind so fails to plan for the inevitable.

Even where there is willingness on the part of family members to be considered as a successor the question is ‘are these individuals equipped with the skills necessary for creating and sustaining success’ in what is now a very competitive environment?

So what are the consequences of failure to plan for SME’s? They are left with the dilemma of either: entrusting the running of the business to a General Manager, and subsequently risking the possibility of causing offence to the ‘family’, or acquiescing to family and leaving the organisations in the hands of an ill-equipped family member to satisfy tradition. The remedy to all this is taking a long-term approach to leadership and planning the development of the prospective successors over time. These individuals need to have their skills and understanding of the business, and its history, honed over time, being gradually exposed to all aspects of the business.


That Dirty Word: Work!

These random thoughts express my observations of people, places and issues in the Bahamian workforce.

If you watch the typical Bahamian workplace through the course of the day, you may see something like this.

Jerry and Glenda arrive at around the same time, exactly 9:00 a.m. After settling at their respective desks, Glenda determines that she needs some tea because getting the kids to school on time is such a mad rush in the mornings and with the terrible traffic, there is hardly enough time to get on the road and be on time. So, of course there’s no time for breakfast. Glenda heads to the office kitchen where she finds Gina and Rhonda already having breakfast while the tea kettle boils. She joins the animated conversation about the awesome conference that was going on at Rhonda’s church this week.

Jerry bought a .99 cent breakfast combo, and the stench of tuna salad, steamed ham and grits with butter waft pervasively through the office, leaving a lingering cloud of grease and onions hovering over the cubicles. He has a report he has to complete so he can’t take the time to stop and eat breakfast in the kitchen. “Let me make a call to my Rotary president first. I need to confirm the agenda for tonight’s meeting.” Jerry spends about 20 minutes on the phone with the Rotary president who sends him an email that he asks him to print for the attendees. “Sure,” Jerry says, and makes 50 copies at the copy machine on the second floor. It’s now 9:45 a.m. and neither Jerry nor Glenda has actually started to work, even though they are both at work.

The day continues in the same fashion. I’ve seen some workplaces where the team’s greatest focus was the discussion about where they were going to get lunch from that day. Or the folks that use the lunch hour for other business and bring their lunch back to the office to eat it, using up yet another half hour of the work day. Let’s not forget the holy hour that begins by 2:30 p.m. every afternoon: ‘school pick up’, where every parent, aunt, uncle, cousin, brother or sister has to pick up at least one child from school. The traffic again at this time is horrendous and the stressful worker may make it back by 3:30 p.m. but by this time, is feeling so drained and unfocused that this time may be spent on sending texts, instant messenger, the telephone or more water cooler chat until 4:30 p.m. Of course by now the witching hour is approaching and as soon as the hour hand moves toward the 5 if not before, the exodus for the exit begins. Do not try to get served at 4:55 p.m. You will be told by that clerk, anxious to leave and frustrated because you have come to block her departure, “We closed.” All accompanied by the customary ‘suck teeth’ and look of disgust.

Yes, it seems as if work is a dirty word for some workers today. Why is it that managers and heaven forbid, customers, get the attitude and rolling eyes and ‘suck teeth’ when they ask people to do what they’re being paid to do? Is that what our workplace has evolved into? What causes this lack of connection in the workplace between the work and the worker?

My observations have been the following:

1. Management
Staff may not be motivated, inspired or held accountable by managers. As a result, they are not interested in the work that they are assigned. Perceived favoritism, manager’s inability to lead or discipline others in the team or the manager’s own lack of knowledge about the job may also contribute to this attitude. It’s almost like school children. When I was in the classroom early in my career, you got the most out of your students if they liked you. If they didn’t like the teacher, they didn’t like the subject. When you engaged the students, they loved the subject. The same seems to be true today at work.

2. Lack of interest in the job
It amazes me how little passion many employees have for their work. It amazes me even more to find that the more people I talk to reveal that they are not doing what they love to do. As they get older and add to their responsibilities, and increase their debt, they feel trapped in a job that pays but does not deliver meaning or worth. Therefore, it becomes a mindless, heartless routine. Dr. Myles Munroe, author and speaker, describes at as ‘people being preoccupied with their preoccupation.’
3. Boredom
The unchallenged worker becomes unoccupied very quickly. Either he has mastered the task or he has not been given enough to do for his skill set. It is important to know the full capabilities of the team so that work can be evenly and fairly distributed according to their interest and ability. Otherwise, the idle worker will only be a distraction to the rest of the team and perhaps even become a discipline problem, be chronically absent, or worse, venturing into entrepreneurship with company resources and on company time…”I don’t have anything else to do, I might as well do what I really want to do” is the cry. I have even seen workers who clock in and leave to go to another job and maybe come back – if you’re lucky.
4. Low skills
Low skill levels can cause an employee to feel overwhelmed by the tasks assigned and the easiest thing to do is not do anything at all. They may hide behind other deadlines, other employees completing their work, or avoiding their manager altogether. There is hope for these, once they admit they need help, and observant managers diligently get to the root of the matter. Additional training and coaching can turn this situation around if handled with patience, genuine interest and care for that employee’s development.
5. Disillusioned about the company
If an employee feels disgruntled, he or she may feel that by being unproductive he or she is hurting the company through their spiteful, passive aggressive actions. And to some degree, they are right. Lack of productivity does affect the bottom line but the catch is when you don’t perform, you can be disciplined or dismissed for your lack of productivity. It is always best to listen to your disgruntled workers. Some complaints may just be from those who feel the company can never do enough to satisfy them but at the root of many a complaint, is the source of a deeper underlying problem in the workplace that may demand an intervention.

While management has tried to put measures in place to decrease distractions for the worker: limited internet access, onsite cafeteria, policies about company phone and cellular phone use, and tougher managers to enforce the policies, productivity is still an issue in many workplaces. Whatever the reason for the unproductive workforce, it is the responsibility of a good HR professional with the cooperation of the entire management team to assess the tenor of the organization to determine what needs to be changed, refined, or improved so that employees are engaged and happy to work rather than the opposite.


Employee Retention

Competitive pay and benefits can get talent in the door, but can the money keep the talent? When employers demonstrate a commitment to work life balance, commitment to providing career development and training opportunities, with a supportive flexible working environment, caring attitude towards staff and a strong balanced emotionally intelligent management and leadership, they have found the key to retaining high-potential employees.

Often I hear employees say all they want is more money and they will be motivated. I had a conversation with a senior engineer recently and the discussion started off by him saying HR people need to understand that money is the ultimate motivator, just pay people more.

I, like Herzberg, believe money to be a satisfier not necessarily a motivator. After an employee is being paid competitively, any incremental increase in money will not necessarily translate into any related incremental increase in performance. One person’s capacity is finite and one usually has an equilibrium point of effort they exert to achieve company targets, objectives and tasks. What do I mean by “equilibrium point”, you know when someone has peaks and depressions of performance, due to various reasons, well they eventually return to their normal work pace.

Our challenge as HR professionals is to optimise employee’s performance by moving their equilibrium work pace upwards. This means that we work towards achieving sustainable high levels of quality performance by fully engaging the employee and thereby retaining talent. The phrase “fully engaging the employee” is a compounded concept that is as a result of many contributing factors, some of them were mentioned in the first paragraph above.

Towers Perrin’s 2007 Global Workforce Study explored the drivers of workforce engagement and noted that although relationships with managers are important, the actions of senior leadership and workplace programmes hold even greater weight. I will share my thoughts on the line manager’s role.

Line managers and their ability to manage people is a current challenge. This has been brought about by promoting technical competence into managerial positions, thereby losing a good technical resource and possibly gaining a bad manager. More often, these newly appointed technical resources are not equipped with the tools necessary to manage people. Yes, sometimes we make grave errors in using wrong criteria for promotion and we further compound the error by not providing the necessary training intervention and then we expect stellar performance from this promoted candidate.

The first challenge after finding yourself in this situation is to get the managers to accept people management as their responsibility. This message must come from the top and continuously be supported by all the senior Executives. The managers must not be allowed to abdicate their people management role to Human Resource. They also must not use HR as a “scapegoat” where they often say “It is not me, that is a HR policy, HR set that rule”. The Line Managers often want HR to write a rule about everything under the sun. This way, the line can refer to rule 3.2 under subsection 4 of policy x as the reason why they cannot do something.

I suggest a comprehensive training programme comprising of seminars, workshops, role plays, and mentors supported by the performance management system to help drive change among the manager group.

The training I played a part in develping looks at thirteen sections. Section one focuses on the big picture, role definition, organisational culture, reason for their team and managing upwards. Section two addresses the issue of transitioning from employee to manager, followed by managing tasks and objectives, setting targets, managing and measuring team performance. Section four looks at leadership, styles of leadership, and how to vary styles according to staff demographics (generation, age, gender, etc…). The other areas are customer service, networking, time management, delegation, coaching, industrial relations, using the HRIS and performance management with emphasis on managing poor performance. These areas should also be slanted and aligned to the strategic direction of the organisation.

In addition to the training, we designed a 180 degree feedback form be completed by the managers’ direct reports. The form was designed according to the ideal profile of a manager in my organisation. The ideal profile also informs the promotion criteria and the selection criteria and is also used as the benchmark when conducting training needs assessments. The form was designed to produce one single score and this is used as a measure in their people perspective of their respective scorecards.

We identified a number of measures that are indicative of the Line Manager’s people management skills. One of which is the number of employee relation issues that have been escalated to the division head and or HR which could have been handled at the managerial level. Other measures are the percentage of leave taken, the turnover (for specific reasons) within the department, and number of employees nominated for and received spot awards, and quarterly awards. The criteria for these awards are also aligned to the organisation’s desired culture and strategic direction.

One should also have baseline figures for these measures before using them as legitimate measures to track progress.

We have also re-organised HR to provide an increased business focus and support to the line managers in carrying out their duties.

In effect, when a decision is made to empower and train the line to have total responsibility and accountability for managing staff, the rest of the employees in the organisation have to align themselves to support that decision. The Mckinsey Seven S model is a useful tool to ensure all areas are addressed.

At the end of my conversation with the Engineer, after we exchanged stories about managers and how they manage, he admittedly declared that when his manager behaves in a certain way, it encourages him to surf the internet all day regardless of his high salary, positive upbringing and work ethic.


Employee Buy-in — Balanced Scorecard

business-team-2.jpgHow does an organisation gain buy-in and support from the general employee popuation about adopting the BSC?

First thing employees want to know, what is in it for me? Different staff levels are interested in varying benefits. The general employees want to know if this system will afford them more money or any added benefits at least within the Trinidad context.

There must an intimate understanding of the employee population, the demographics, variations of likes and dislikes, the culture, expectations and work ethic. This understanding will help inform a stakeholder analysis which will be used to design a strategy to gain employee buy-in. All presentations must be customised to the target audience.

I suggest starting with identifying the gaps and the weaknesses of the previous performance management system citing some of the employee comments validating the dissatisfaction. This could be used as a tactical platform to partially support the adoption of the BSC. One should emphasise the advantages of the BSC, especially its use as a strategic management tool for the senior management team and its use as an increased objective way to measure performance for the general employee population.

From my own work using and implementing the BSC, the employees who supported the BSC implementation are the ones who are the high performers. They welcome a system that objectively measures their achievement of objectives using agreed upon metrics and targets with reliable and valid data delivery systems. These star performers noted that in the past the traditional performance management system was unable to easily identify poor performers. Hence all employees were generally rated high or at least towards the right of the bell curve for performance ratings resulting in a skewed curve.

The employees who are unsure about their own performance are the ones who are hesitant to adopt the BSC since their performance outcomes will be under increased scrutiny and as a result will impact their annual bonuses.

During my work, I also noted reluctance on the part of a number of appraisers to confront poor performance issues with staff. This resulted in poor performers with a satisfactory performance rating under the traditional performance management system. The BSC provides more rigour and discipline to managing performance using agreed upon measures and goals, thereby supporting the appraisers to rely less on their subjective opinion and more on undisputed facts. Yes, on some occasions, there are shades of grey, but this is another issue and I can talk later on how I have dealt with these real challenges using the BSC on a daily basis.

One of the key strategies I suggest is to identify the informal leaders in the organisation across the organisation and gain their buy-in first and use them as change agents to reinforce the benefits of the BSC and to support and embrace the BSC adoption.

In addition, to constant communication, posters, workshops, seminars, customised presentations, segmenting staff and identifying the “what’s in it for me” per stakeholder group, giveaways to keep the BSC top of mind, I suggest a game show. Of course, this will have to be culture specific and appropriate and supported by the leadership. From my own work, I designed a game show that built on the elements of “Jeopardy”. There were a series of questions that were disseminated on a weekly basis about 4-6 weeks prior to the actual game show event. Employees would submit their answers and be awarded prizes weekly. The questions were all about understanding the company, especially the BSC and some questions were quite silly and culture specific. From the weekly winners, there were selected finalists who competed against each other by answering a series of questions with the President as the host.

The actual game show resulted in lots of laughter, increased knowledge of the BSC, increased awareness of company issues and a curiosity about the BSC and the business in general among the employee population.

I hope you enjoyed this article. I will be writing on other topics, all based on my experience, after all there are enough text books out there to satisfy the most avaricious appetite for learning.


Galba Bright Tribute

galba1.JPGThe bad news has just been shared with me that Galba Bright passed away two days ago. His sudden passing comes as a shock to us all.

Leave a comment to this post if you’d like to write him a tribute to this long-time and very active member of CaribHRForum. Simply click on the word “Comments” at the bottom of this post.

His website is still active: http://tuneupyoureq.com/ and his very last recording, a podcast interview, can be accessed by clicking on the links below. This is an excerpt from this last post to CaribHRForum.


Anna Farmery, of The Engaging Brand Blog, one of the top 10,000 blogs in the world (out of over 70 million) interviewed me about Emotional Intelligence and Leadership recently.

Listen to Part 1: http://theengagingbrand.typepad.com/the_engaging_brand_/2008/03/show-153—emot.html

Listen to Part 2: http://theengagingbrand.typepad.com/the_engaging_brand_/2008/03/show-154—emot.html

In Part 1 (28 mins) we discuss:

* Why Emotional Intelligence is vital to today’s leaders and the role played by 3 of the 4 Emotional Intelligence competencies:

* Self awareness

* Self management, and

* Social awareness

In Part 2 (28 mins) we discuss:

* Relationship management, the fourth Emotional Intelligence competency.

* How to read and use an Emotional Intelligence assessment.

* Why self awareness is vital to modern leadership.

This interview will help you become a better leader. It can also help you make the case for introducing Emotional Intelligence Learning Programmes to your organisation.


Click on the word “Comments” below to leave a tribute.



istock_000000796578xsmallp.JPGWe’ve had a few calls for coaching recently. Have you noticed how coaching’s never really gone away? It’s somehow managed to survive being relegated as a ‘fad’ when ‘Life Coaches’ became popular. So why is that?

Well perhaps it’s because coaching seems to have been around in some form since before time itself…well not really, but it’s definitely been around for a while. According to Performance Coaching Int’l http://www.performancecoachinginternational.com/ we can trace the roots of coaching right from days of yore when the more experienced and skilled elders would teach the young how to hunt, cook, paint pictures on cave walls and to contribute effectively to their communities in general.

Fast-forward a few hundred centuries and Performance Coaching Int’l attribute a noticeable increase in interest in coaching, to the transition of society from a collective to an ‘individual’ focus. This aligns with the changes in development –interventions which moved from the sheep-dip approach, prevalent in the 1990’s, to tailored and individualized solutions that are common today.

A major breakthrough in coaching came in the guise of the published work of a former motor racing champion, Sir John Whitmore. His publication ‘Coaching for Performance’ (2002) gave the world the now famous GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, Will). His simple approach helped to open the floodgates for what has become a billion dollar industry in both the US and UK markets.

Over the last 15 years numerous other coaching approaches have emerged with some attempting to make it more ‘sophisticated’, and in our opinion overcomplicating it! Whichever approach you favour the underlying ethos remains the same. Coaching is essentially:

an intuitive developmental tool that facilitates the individual arriving at their own solution with learning being the ultimate outcome’.
(Monique Straughan & Felicia Linch 2008)

“But” we hear you say – “this doesn’t fit our definition of a coach”. Perhaps you are more familiar with the ‘sports coach’ who gives more instruction and there is less input from the individual, or the ‘mentor’. These classifications are used interchangeably at times and often without being defined so instead of bringing clarity to the Coaching debate they muddy the waters. So we have designed a useful model which is our attempt at distinguishing and understanding these different classifications, and the respective value of each:


The Listener: this is where instruction from the manager is low and input from the employee is low. This could be considered the most ineffectual of all the classifications as basically the employee is given the opportunity to vent but no problem solving/guidance is forthcoming.

The Sports Coach: this is where there is high instruction from the manager and low input from the employee. This relationship may be of value but we suggest is more suited to employees with limited/no work experience, or in a non-work environment such as youth clubs, educational institutions.

The Mentor: this is where there is high instruction from the manager, but also high in put from the employee. This relationship also has some value and may be the initial stages of a ‘Coaching’ relationship as the employee gains confidence and realises that they have the answers within them. Another distinguishing factor with a mentor is that their scope often extends beyond job-development and therefore it is recommended that a mentor be someone other than the direct line manager.

The Coach: this is where there is low instruction from the manager, and high input from the employee. Here the coach questions and challenges, rather than ‘tells’ the employee what to do. We believe the learning is much more effective when the employee has arrived at the answer themselves verses having it handed to them, not to mention the fact that if it all goes horribly wrong the employee has to take some responsibility rather than just pointing the finger at the coach!

So there you have it – Coaching and the classifications defined. Next week we take a look at the basic coaching process, and more importantly the value, or not, that it delivers to businesses.


Blended Learning

classroom-adults.jpgThis is Alia Vaz-Heaven’s first post on CaribHRForum.

Learning is a part of daily living; it may take place unconsciously or in a structured mode. According to Smith and Ragan (1999), learning is a relatively permanent change in a person’s behaviour due to experience based on the duration of change, the locus of the change, and the cause of the change. For learning to occur within individuals in a corporate context, HR Professionals need to use the best learning approach to engender the pervasiveness of knowledge within the organization. One unique approach to learning is blended learning. It is unique because it taps the reservoirs of different learning approaches, such as classroom-only learning and e-learning, in an effort to offer the best approach to learning.

There are several alternative names for blended learning such as integrated learning, balanced learning, hybrid learning, magic-in-a-mix, the perfect solution, and the best of both worlds. It is clear from these alternative names and even the word “blended” that blended learning seeks to put an end to the divide between traditional and online instruction, promising the best of both worlds by offering some of the conveniences of online courses without the complete loss of face-to-face contact.

So, is blending different learning modalities more effective for human resource training and development than the traditional approach to learning? Some companies are using a 50-50 combination of classroom-only and e-learning to form blended learning, while others are trying to move all learning out of the classroom and into the digital world. Either strategy moves away from having a classroom-only approach.

While face-to-face classes allow for interaction, it is done in a constrained synchronous mode where the instructor and a few participants often dominate the opportunity to interact. With its varied delivery options, blended learning takes interaction beyond the classroom and allows those who were limited in the classroom to obtain yet another opportunity to get knowledge from other subject-matter experts, such as supervisors, managers, or assigned mentors.

HR Professionals must remember that varied options do not mean blended. Instead learning becomes truly blended when a learner embraces the availability of these options, such as breaking away from the traditional views of learning (thinking that learning can only happen in a classroom setting) to see learning as a perpetual process, unbounded by the walls of a classroom environment.

When this mental paradigm shift takes places within learners then they will find it easier to solicit knowledge from peers, mentors, or experts, where they see this strategy as a continuing learning process solidifying or expounding on what has been taught in the classroom or through other learning options.


Balanced Scorecard Implementation

balancedscorecard.gif This is Denise Ali’s first post on CaribHRForum.

This article seeks to document and share my experience and knowledge with designing and implementing scorecard systems in organisations.

The first order of business before embarking on a scorecard implementation is to conduct a thorough literature review regardless of how much you think you know about the BSC.

The literature review will inform or validate the choice to implement the BSC. The organisation should be very clear on if they are using the BSC as performance management tool or as a strategic management tool and they must understand the difference and its implications.

The BSC implementation is not the whole responsibility of the Human Resource department. One organisation actually placed this responsibility initially within HR and the results were disastrous especially since the entire leadership team were not in full support of the BSC. An Executive Sponsor should be appointed to drive the implementation. Many case studies cited the formation of a steering committee as being very helpful to dislodge obstacles and to drive acceptance and buy-in.

Continue reading “Balanced Scorecard Implementation”

Employee Engagement … A Moving Target

istock_000000340142xsmall.jpgWelcome to the first of 12 weeks of blurb from the desk of Monique and Felicia. We’d firstly like to thank Francis for giving us the opportunity to contribute to this blog and we shall certainly do our best to keep the topics provocative and interesting ‘a la’ the brief we’ve been provided!

This week we decided to look at that area of Human Resources that has become a hot topic on the lips of many …..Employee Engagement.

What is employee engagement? Is it another fad? Is it the perfect marriage between employer and employee?

As with many other areas within our field, mention employee engagement to the average worker and you will see a blank face, eyes glazing over, a shift to the left then right and well….you know the rest.

So we take a stab at defining employee engagement so that at a minimum we provide you with our frame of reference. But why reinvent the wheel, we liked the definition provided by the customer experience consultants McDaniels and Partners. You make up your own mind:

Employee engagement:

is commitment to the organization; job ownership and pride; passion and excitement; and commitment to execution and the bottom line”.

Source: http://employeefactor.com/2007/10/employee_engagement_starts_wit.html

Sounds simple enough but is in fact easier said than done, let’s break it down, there seems to be 4 key themes here:
Continue reading “Employee Engagement … A Moving Target”