Succession Planning: Why Context is King

Written by MaryJane Craig

July 18, 2018

Succession Planning: Why Context is King

In recent years, we have witnessed a fundamental shift in organizations across the globe. Rising retirement rates from the Baby-Boomer Generation are leaving an increasing amount of critical leadership positions vacant and causing many organizations to scramble over succession planning and recruiting strategies. Now more than ever, HR executives are under pressure to expedite recruiting cycles while increasing the quality of the candidates.

This urgency surrounding recruiting has led many organizations to turn to advanced candidate assessment tools and people analytics to help streamline succession planning, and the hiring process in general, by using data to predict which candidates will be the best fit for the role. However, the research firm CEB recently uncovered an interesting trend of organization’s beginning to override the suggestions derived from their sophisticated algorithms and choosing candidates based on their intuition or opinion instead. While it may seem that this deviance from the software suggestion is counter-productive, the research found that the intuition or opinion-based decisions tended to be the right ones.

In analyzing the reasons for the disconnect between what the software would indicate as the best candidate and what the hiring team decided the actual best candidate was, CEB found that the difference was context. When hiring leaders, counting their number of skills or years of experience is just as important as considering the context that the leader will be in when they join the organization. What matters most is how the candidate can harness the skills and experience they have and apply them to their new organization’s challenges and objectives.

For example, when hiring for a new CEO or CFO, many organizations would consider their current business objectives; is the organization planning to expand into new markets? Or are they working to merge with a competitor? Based on the objectives of the organization, the team would want to hire a qualified leader that had experience with that type of situation. Unfortunately, these types of contextual-based considerations are often overlooked when succession planning for positions below the C-Suite and even advanced algorithms aren’t always able to analyze how a specific situation would require a candidate to leverage their varying skills.

This change in hiring techniques is indicative of a shift in popularity from the “generalist” to the “specialist”. While some hiring strategies require that candidates offer a wide range of varying skills that can help organization’s address a myriad of challenges, many hiring teams are beginning to strategically define position objectives and hire for specific skills and experience that can help their organization tackle the issue at hand. In other words, candidates won’t be able to get by being a jack of all trades and a master of none. This hiring strategy enables organizations to begin building cross-functional teams of specialists to address bold business challenges and produce high impact results.

Whether for proactive succession planning, simply filling vacancies, or hiring for entirely new leadership positions, the conclusion is clear; executives and hiring managers need to remember that context is king.

This DATIS Blog was written by MJ Craig, DATIS, on August 31st, 2017 and may not be re-posted without permission.