Sooner or later, the future inevitably brings disruption. Sometimes change can be seen a long way off, but sometimes it leaps out unannounced. In either case, when change comes it pays to be ready.
A major US-based technology multi-national in reviewing its pipelining strategy had come to understand the crucial roles of both diversity and succession planning in readying the business for the future. Particularly it had identified the need to strengthen these plans in its Western European operations.
Our client was concerned that the company would be exposed if one of their country leaders stepped down. So Armstrong Craven was invited to develop continuity strategies to manage such times of change.
Our client was also acutely aware that women were underrepresented at country leadership level and so succession planning also had to include rebalancing leader gender ratios to at least 30% female representation.
The final part of this project’s challenge would be to empower the European management team taking responsibility for succession and diversity management across multiple countries.
We all recognised that the best candidates would not necessarily be found ‘in-country’ and so we widened our view internationally. Particularly, we looked to identify ‘boomerang candidates’ – people working in other locations who might be motivated to return to their native countries. To meet diversity goals, we also prioritised identifying female potential candidates. For example, an experienced female manager from Portugal now working in Brazil might be targeted as a future leader of a Portuguese operation.
We engaged with high-level business and service leaders in each country, to find those with the appropriate skills, experience and ambition to ‘step up’ in the future. Candidates who had made successful lateral or project-based moves beyond their core discipline, demonstrating the ability to cope with new challenges, were of particular interest. We widened our search beyond the countries in question for similarly experienced candidates who also had relevant language skills and stakeholder experience.
For each role we focussed on identifying potential female candidates, particularly in the services where women were notably underrepresented.
To avoid creating rumour and discontent, we took care not to talk to candidates about specific roles. Our approach was to engage with them in conversations that identified their career objectives and suitability for potential promotion and, if required, relocation. From them, we were also able to test attitudes and gather insight about competitors and different markets.
Finally we networked with our country and regional leadership contacts to benchmark our candidates and find out how well they were regarded within their market sectors.
We established a ‘warm talent pool’ for our client. It contained the CVs and profiles of candidates identified as ready to step up to country leader level. As well as detailing skills and experience, we identified those with a readiness or propensity to move. Wherever possible, we prioritised female candidates.
Our client can draw from this talent pool to hire both at immediate points of need and, by maintaining the approach and practices that we have established, into the future.
As a result: they have opened communication channels with their high level managers (from high touch to low touch according to readiness to talk/propensity to move); they have strengthened their benchmarking of this group to build a better understanding of a vital talent resource; they have improved their diversity performance; and they have put in place a clear succession plan to which the business has been happy to sign up to.
Additional benefits of this process have been to examine and define the current state of the client’s senior talent pool so that they were able to benchmark their existing team against the best external talent. In doing so, the client was able to make informed decisions over their leadership talent, and align the best people to their business strategy going forward thus significantly reducing their risk.