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The leadership succession path is clearer with behavioural analytics

By Doug McCann

It’s 11 o’clock; do you know where your next leader is?

The issue of succession planning continually rises to the top as a hot-button issue for boards, but few executives actually know who their next leader will be. Research conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business shows that less than 50 per cent of Canada’s small to mid-sized (SMEs) businesses have developed a formal succession plan.

And if you want to feel even less prepared, the Harvard Business Review suggests that an organization should be grooming at least seven potential CEOs, across several generations throughout the company.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, because there are proven strategies and tools, such as behavioural assessments, that provide a straightforward and scientific framework for building a strong leadership pipeline. By injecting intention into succession planning, organizations that plan ahead are successfully adding, cultivating and preparing the next generation of corporate leaders. Follow these three steps and over time you’ll create a path to successfully fill your leadership pipeline.

1. Hire employees that fit your organization’s culture

When it comes to succession planning, it pays to play the long game. Finding the right successors for an organization is a process that requires years of planning, mentoring and guidance. According to the statistics, your next leader will be plucked from the ranks within your own company. Rethink the hiring process not as simply filling an opening, but rather with the objective of engaging a potential leader.

The Global Leadership Forecast estimates that hiring well and promoting from within can have a success rate of 70 to 80 per cent, so understanding how a potential employee will react to different work situations is critical. Using employee analytics allows organizations to hire employees whose behavioural assessments and skillsets best fit the job assessment. They also ensure that employees who are joining an established workforce mesh with the organization’s culture. This is the critical first step to building the right pool of talent from which to later identify and draw future leaders.

Bell Mobility initially turned to behavioural analytics to better understand their employees’ proficiencies, their fit in their existing roles and their compatibility with the corporate culture. They quickly realized that by analyzing employee behavioural assessments, they could also identify patterns that led to stronger teams and improved communications. Senior management was also able to use behavioural assessments to identify forward-thinking employees who could be trained as future corporate leaders.

Today, 85 per cent of Bell’s employees have a career development plan based on behavioural data. This has allowed Bell to develop a close-knit workforce, build a management team with a strong understanding of employee needs and motivations and create an identified list of potential leaders who will protect the integrity and longevity of the organization.

2. Create the goal by defining the leadership role

Believing that the current top performers will be the organization’s best candidates for future leadership is a common misconception. Executive positions may require skills that are undeveloped or personal characteristics that are absent among those currently excelling in their current roles. To successfully identify future leadership talent, organizations must first define the role that needs to be filled. Only after this is done can a match between employees and leadership roles be identified. While the predictive index (PI) behavioural assessment provides the analytical data to access employee behaviours, the performance requirement options (PRO) job assessment captures the behavioural requirements for a specific role.

Succession planning is an ongoing process that constantly needs to be adapted to a continually changing work environment.

Flynn Canada, a fast-growing Canadian trade contractor of complete building envelope solutions, understands the value of cultivating a solid corporate culture. With 19 locations coast-to-coast, Flynn executives place an extremely high value on understanding their people. Each employee knows their own behavioural assessment results and those of their team members. Managers are well versed not only in the behavioural assessments of their teams, but also use the PRO to compare Flynn Canada’s needs with the skillsets available in their talent pool. Throughout this process, the management team has been able to identify skills gaps for additional training and also recognize high potential employees. As a result, Flynn Canada’s employees have more than a job, they have a career path that aligns both their own goals and the organization’s needs. Carefully planning employees’ paths helps Flynn Canada grow as an organization while providing personal growth and advancement opportunities for employees.

3. Identify leadership talent and cultivate their skills

Properly identifying and developing leadership talent is an investment over time. It is a product of extensive planning, mentoring and guidance that begins when behavioural analytics show a strong match between an employee’s behavioural assessment and the job assessment of a leadership role. Using this wealth of employee data, managers can develop a personalized plan to groom the employee for a future leadership role.

By focusing on developing their people, Oil Country Engineering (OCE), an employee-owned engineering firm in the oil and gas industry, differentiates themselves from others in their field. By analyzing employee data and ensuring a close match to the job assessments developed for leadership roles, managers at OCE tailor training and coaching to support future leaders. With a company-wide understanding of behavioural analytics, OCE ensures that everyone understands each other’s abilities. Quarterly check-ins with employees facilitate the development and growth of natural talents to allow employees to reach their full potential. This has allowed OCE to become a strengths-based organization with succession planning seamlessly integrated into their business strategy. An added benefit of this approach has been a 60 per cent improvement in productivity and a significant reduction in turnover.

Succession planning is an ongoing process that constantly needs to be adapted to a continually changing work environment. By measuring employee analytics, organizations take much of the uncertainty out of planning for the future. This also allows companies to continually strengthen leadership, reinforce corporate culture and meet strategic priorities while developing the next generation of leaders. If done successfully, businesses nurture and hold on to talent with critical leadership skills while also making the organization attractive to top talent who seek a workplace with development and career advancement opportunities. This thriving environment provides the best foundation for an organization’s future growth.

Doug McCann is a managing principal of Predictive Success Corporation.

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