Leading On Management: Building an Effective Leadership Pipeline

A scenario that plays out every day in corporations across the globe is the cycle of reactive recruiting. An individual leaves the company on very short notice. The leader scrambles to distribute the work and recover any knowledge from the departing employee before their last day. The recruiting team scrambles to find a replacement as quickly as possible. Before anything gets settled, another employee leaves and the company is now facing gaps in two crucial roles and the recruiting team is already behind. When these roles are leadership roles, the problem is compounded.SABRINAEMPLOYEE

For companies stuck in this cycle it can be hard to get out. When you are stuck in the routine of re-activeness it can seem impossible to get ahead. Especially when one open position can lead to another and another. If that open position happens to be a leadership position, a team can fall apart fairly quickly with no one at the helm. In short, this cycle of re-activeness is affecting the success of the business.

There are two specific ways to get out of a reactive recruiting cycle. The first is to participate in regular workforce planning. The second is to build a talent pipeline for all of the crucial positions in the company. Let’s look at workforce planning first.

Workforce planning discussions should happen no less than once a year. For best results they should happen more often. Workforce planning involves the senior leaders sitting down and having honest discussions about every person in the company. The key to these discussions is to identify who may be at risk either due to performance issues or due to leaving on their own. In addition, these discussions should cover any new positions that will be added throughout the year.

Here are the questions you should be answering:

  • Who is at risk of leaving?
  • What is the estimated timeline when that person could leave?
  • If they leave, would we distribute the work elsewhere or would we need to replace them?
  • If we replace them do we have anyone internally who could step in? (if the answer is yes, then you start the questioning all over with that person’s position)
  • How long could we stand the position to be open without a replacement?
  • What new positions will we be adding this year?
  • Do we have someone internally who could fill the new positions or will we need to hire?
  • In what month will each new position be added?

This discussion gives your recruiting team a great foundation to start building their pro-active recruiting plans. Knowing ahead of time who may be leaving when or what new positions will be added in what month will help them build a proper talent pipeline.

Which leads to how to build effective pipelines. If your business has been in a cycle of perpetual re-activeness I believe the best place to start building a talent pipeline is within your crucial leadership positions. What positions would seriously hurt the success of the company or employee engagement if they were left open for any period of time?

Once those positions are identified, anyone internally who may be able to fill those roles should be put on development plans to fully prepare them. In addition, the recruiting team should start to engage outside talent. This action is the reason so many compare recruiting to dating. In this very scenario, the recruiter would, in effect, court a leader until time when they are needed at the company. This could be months down the road, but a savvy recruiter will know how to engage in a conversation that keeps a person interested until the time is right. And of course, the best recruiters would never be courting just one leader. In order to build an effective talent pipeline, you need several potential candidates for each role. For this reason, many companies have started cultivating talent communities. These communities are built with people who have expressed interest in working for the company at some point and the company continually engages with until an open position may come open.

Companies who are able to get ahead of the recruiting game instead of behind thrive in new and exciting ways. They are not constantly fighting for talent or settling for whoever they can hire quickly. They are able to better plan the exact skill set and personality that they need and of course, they are able to hire much faster.

Sabrina Baker
Sabrina Baker, PHR is the founder and CEO of Acacia HR Solutions, a human resource outsourcing, consulting and recruiting firm located outside of Chicago, IL. Sabrina was a human resource leader for eleven years before starting her own business in 2011. She serves on the Illinois Society of Human Resources Council board and holds the position of Annual Conference Chair. She is also a member of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) press team and is a regular contributor to their We Know Next blog. After experiencing her own layoff in 2010, Sabrina became very passionate about helping job seekers find work. Through her business and volunteer efforts she makes helping people find jobs a priority. Sabrina was named one of the Top 100 HR Influencers to follow on Twitter via the Huffington Post in 2013 and one of the Faces of Recruiting and Staffing by HR Marketer in 2014.
Sabrina Baker
Sabrina Baker

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