Managing Talent Gaps: How to Create a Succession Plan That Works

by Regan McPhee 2. February 2011 17:32

Age. We all do it. First we’re young and then, sometimes without realizing it, we get old. And if our businesses have an employee population that gets old without our realizing it, we’re going to be left with talent gaps that could, potentially, ruin us.


While I realize that sounds rather alarmist in nature, it is actually true. Failing to have a workable succession plan for senior positions within our organizations can, according to, “undermine an organization’s effectiveness and sustainability.”


And the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the World Federation of Personnel Management Associations (WFPMA) conducted a 2007 study that determined that by 2015, or earlier, over 78 per cent of Canadian companies “will be offering flexible employment options to attract or retain semi-retired or retired employees.”


Yet creating a succession plan to ensure the senior positions vacated by these retiring employees are filled by qualified candidates is not that difficult. Time consuming, yes. Requiring a commitment from senior management, yes. But not that difficult.


The Tata Group, the largest conglomerate in India with 114 companies and subsidiaries and 280,000 employees as of July 2007, develops their potential succession candidates using the following formula:


10% training courses + 20% interaction with people + 70% challenging jobs


This obviously successful formula echoes the four succession strategy groups listed in 2005 by the US Office of Personnel Management at, which are:




  1. Development and Learning Strategies


Once you have determined which employees are potential candidates for succession, it is important to increase the scope of their current position. It’s also important to include these individuals in projects that require them to learn new skills.


Another key to developing succession candidates is to involve them in formal educational and leadership training courses, as well as giving them opportunities to observe senior leaders during strategic meetings and significant organizational actions.


  1. Feedback Strategies


The use of assessments during succession planning can be extremely helpful. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DISC and 360 are just some of the tools that can be used to help candidates, and the organization, better understand the core competencies of each individual candidate.


Coaches and mentors are vital to guaranteeing a succession plan, and the candidates chosen to be a part of it, is successful. They enable a candidate to learn, firsthand and through continuous appraisal, where and how they need to improve in order to move up in the company and be effective when they get there.


  1. Retention Strategies

        Choosing potential succession candidates tends to be easy when you compare it to actually retaining the candidates after they have been

        chosen. In order to keep top-performers, it is absolutely necessary to have retention bonuses and incentives, as well as recognition systems

        (appropriate to the needs and motivators of each employee) in place.


Another way to ensure you retain your top-performers is to develop work-life balance programs, such as telecommuting, childcare, fitness programs and shared or alternative work schedules.


  1. Recruitment Strategies

Recruitment strategies are also an important part of successful succession planning, as many times appropriate succession candidates can’t be found within the organization.


To guarantee your company hires the most talented individuals available establish recruitment bonuses and incentives. Another way of guaranteeing you bring in the top talent is to offer relocation bonuses and accurate branding of your company.


So while the media may have us believing we can stop the aging process, the sad fact is we’re all going to age no matter how hard we try to stop it. And that means our senior employees are, some day, going to retire whether we’re ready for it or not.


Therefore save yourselves, and your company, a lot of headaches and create a workable succession plan now. Not only will your organization be more effective, you may also slow your own aging-process down by avoiding the stress of trying to find quick replacements for senior managers who retire ‘out of the blue’.



HR | human resources | talent management

Nothing to Fear: Tests and Assessments That Help Rather Than Hurt

by Regan McPhee 27. November 2010 00:14

Tests scare people. They imply that there is a right answer and a wrong answer. But some tests, or should I say assessments, have no right or wrong answers. They are merely explanations and clarifications that should enlighten us. They are nothing to fear.


However, in the past, many employers used these assessments to gather information they then used against their employees, rather than using it to support their employees’ growth, unfairly giving psychometric tools their frightful reputation.


But in fact, the most commonly used assessments worldwide (DISC; Myers Briggs Type Indicator – MBTI; Emotional Quotient Inventory – EQI; and Predictive Index – PI) were created as self-development tools and when they are used correctly, they can enhance our business’ ability to function.


Furthermore, according to research begun in 2008 by Hewitt Associates, a human resource consulting and outsourcing company, employee morale and connectedness is down for most companies due to anxiety, insecurity and turmoil brought on by the recent economic downturn.


 But as Ted Marusarz, the leader of Global Engagement and Culture at Hewitt, says in a July 29th, 2010 Business Wire article, insight into the motivation of employee behaviour is essential for achieving organizational success during good times and bad.


To appreciate the benefits of these tools, we must first understand what they measure and what they don’t. We need to understand what they can and cannot do. And, finally, we need to understand how they should be used and how they can be abused.


Take, as an example, the DISC assessment. It measures behavioural patterns. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less.


DISC doesn’t measure intelligence or ‘abnormal’ behaviour or past experiences. It can’t tell us what a person’s ideals are or about their educational background. What DISC can tell us are the behaviours a person prefers to use while they are at work.


And because DISC enables us to learn the behavioural preferences of our employees, and therefore their preferred style of interaction (soft-sell versus hard-sell; detailed versus an overview), it is an excellent tool to improve communication within our organizations.


It allows us to communicate more clearly and concisely and in a way that lessens misunderstandings and potentially hurt feelings.


Yet in addition to aiding clear communication, DISC can help determine what behaviours are necessary for the successful completion of a specific task and hiring the right person for the job.


But DISC should never be used as the sole reason for hiring someone.


When using DISC, or any psychometric tool, to aid in a hiring decision, the results of the assessment should not make up more than 10 per cent of the decision making process. We must also consider the interview, the resume, the references and even our intuition when hiring a new employee.


And if we use DISC to justify firing an employee we are misusing the tool. It should never be used to phase out an individual. If anything, DISC is an ideal tool to help adapt the position so it better suits the person performing the job.


Finally, DISC findings should never be used against someone. It is meant to celebrate the unique behavioural style of each employee and what those behavioural strengths bring to our organizations.


So take the next step. Ease the minds of your staff and learn for yourself the advantages of DISC and how to incorporate it into your organization’s daily functions. Re-engage your employees. Show them they are an integral part of your business and give them the education and support they need to grow right along with the organization.


Because tests don’t have to be scary and DISC, when used properly, can help ensure that you have the diversity - and the knowledge to manage that diversity - to succeed.

Personality in the Workplace: Does It Really Matter?

by Regan McPhee 22. November 2010 07:02

Why should we care about the different personalities in our organizations? Does it really make a difference if Joan wants to focus on the details of a task or if Stanley wants to be left alone while working on a project? And do we truly need to trouble ourselves with all that touchy-feely stuff when all we’re trying to do is hire someone to fill the position?


Yes, yes, and most definitely, yes. But personality isn’t touchy-feely; in fact, it’s downright scientific. All we have to do is read some of the numerous research studies published to realize that personality, and the prediction of human behaviour, is quantifiable when valid psychometric tools are used.


According to the 2006 webcast panel hosted by the Human Capital Institute, Why Assessments Work: Answering the Debate, psychometrics measure either one of two things. They can measure an individual’s “Can-Do Competencies” or their “Will-Do Competencies”. Can-Do competencies include skills and knowledge tests and evaluate a person’s maximum performance level (like those found at: Will-Do competencies include outlook, drive and personality and assess someone’s normal level of performance (like MBTI, DISC and EQI).


So the question shouldn’t be why consider personality in the workplace. The question should be why not.


Why not create an organizational environment that reduces the number of false recruitments.


The Talent Institute ( published research, Evaluating the use of Psychometric Testing, that showed while false recruitments are inevitable, it is possible to lower our number of bad hires. The study indicates that unstructured interviews offer a mere validity of 0.18 whereas can-do and will-do assessments offer a combined validity of 0.60.


Rioux and Bernthal, authors of the Recruitment and Selection Practices study, found that companies who have developed highly successful hiring processes are 15 to 22 per cent more likely to include behavioural interviewing, motivational inventories, etc. when recruiting. Those companies also “experienced higher business outcomes (i.e. financial performance, quality of products and services, productivity and customer satisfaction) and employee outcomes (i.e. employee satisfaction and retention of quality employees)”.


Why not make that much needed reorganization of your company an unmitigated success.


GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) did. In 2009, GSK Finland asked SHL Group Ltd. to help with the reorganization of their regional sales team. SHL accomplished a successful transition by selecting specific psychometric tools that addressed the core competencies identified for each of the new roles and by training the GSK HR team on correct interpretation of assessment results and “competency-based interviewing”.


Susanna Grundstrom, the GSK HR Project Manager, was surprised at how often the hiring managers agreed about which candidate was the most suitable for the role in question. They “managed to see beyond the person whom they might already know personally” and the few disagreements they did have were quickly worked out “by looking at it from a ‘what is best for the candidate’ perspective," Grundstrom said.


But taking into account the core competencies of the roles and the personalities of the job candidates weren’t the only benefits of using psychometrics during the GSK reorganization. It also increased the level of understanding between the hiring managers and the HR team. Ultimately, personality helped Grundstrom and her HR team utilize, “the potential of our human capital in a better way”.


So why not harness your own company’s potential and become one of the Best.


Because when you look at the list AON Hewitt compiled for Maclean’s “Canada’s Best 50 Employers”, 2010, employee recognition, training and communication are repeatedly mentioned as reasons why employees are happy working for these organizations (11, 26 and 25 times respectively).


Here are just of a few of the reasons why these companies are so great to work for: “highly collaborative and communicative culture”, CHUBB Insurance Company of Canada in Toronto; “culture of empowerment”, CISCO Canada in Toronto; “respect and trust”, Clark Builders in Edmonton; and “open and transparent communication”, ING Direct in Toronto.


We’re not going to get comments like these if we continue to blithely ignore the personality needs of our employees. An individual is going to find it difficult to respect the organization they work for if their managers continue to push them into sales when they’ve made it clear they’re uncomfortable in that particular role. Or if someone prefers to be a part of a team and yet they’re repeatedly asked to work on solo projects.


Slow pace or quick pace? Leader or follower? Forest or trees? Trust happens when we know, and respect, how our colleagues will answer these questions. Developing a “communicative culture” also requires that same knowledge and reverence of personality. Someone who favours one on one communication is unlikely to open up in a town hall meeting. And if that’s all we’re offering, as a means to voice concerns, then we risk alienating a key portion of our workforce.


At the end of the day, personality really does matter. Because in order for our companies to be the best, we need to fulfill our employees’ needs. And in order to know what our employees need, we need to know our employees’ personalities.


Robin Sharma & 'What I'm really sharing is Leadership 2.0'

by Profiles Global 19. October 2010 01:54

It is hard to know where to start when determining how Robin Sharma has shaped my thinking on leadership. About ten years ago I was fortunate enough to have been exposed to his book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari – the bestseller that shot Robin to fame and has sold millions of copies around the world.  Since then I continue to learn from, and be inspired by, Robin through an almost daily diet of his blog, vlogs, podcasts and subsequent books on leadership.

My experience is shared by people across the globe. Robin is ranked in the top 5 (along with Jim Collins, Jack Welch and John Maxwell) of the world's leadership experts by Pretty impressive reach when you consider he grew up in a small town in Nova Scotia.

If you have heard of Robin Sharma then you’ll be excited to learn that The Saint John Board of Trade is showing great leadership by bringing Robin, a world class speaker, to town tomorrow to share his inspiring visiondave, robin cropped.jpg of ‘leading without title’ with our business community. If you are not familiar with Robin and his message, then I’d highly encourage you to see him live - you will not be disappointed.
I recently had the privilege of asking Robin about authoring bestselling books, leaving his career as a lawyer and what he’s learning as he consults and speaks to leaders around the world. Here are his thoughts on “blocking out the noise and crafting an exceptional life . . .”

Dave: I¹ve made a point of re-reading The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and I¹m struck by how much it still resonates with me after over 10 years. When you were writing this book, did you have any sense of what a classic it would become?

Robin: I really am so humbled by how The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari  has become such an inspirational classic around the world. It started off as a self-published book at a Kinko's copy shop. My mom was my editor and my father helped me sell it at Rotary Clubs. I still remember the boxes of books in my small apartment's kitchen. But people read it - and then told everyone they knew about it. What's best for me is all the people the book has helped to create exceptional business and personal lives.

Dave:  What compelled you to leave your career as a lawyer and to devote your career, and life, to working in the organizational and personal leadership space?

Robin: I've always been very committed to trying to improve myself so I could fully express my best. Over a decade ago I was a successful but unhappy litigation lawyer. So I started working on myself. I learned some very powerful ideas and tactics that really revolutionized my mindset and way of being. I thought that if an ordinary person from a small town in Nova Scotia could make such a transformation in his life, I should write about it and share the tools I learned with other people. So I wrote The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. With the success of that book, I started writing other books and that led to me forming a leadership consultancy. Now, my entire professional life is devoted to helping people in businesses around the world “Lead Without a Title” and do their best work.

Dave: You are in a unique position to interact frequently with leaders around the world. As you listen to the leadership challenges people are confronting, do you see any patterns emerging? If so, what are the patterns and how are leaders overcoming these challenges?

Robin: Yes, I think many leaders are struggling with the same things. We live in a world where it's really easy to be busy doing nothing. And majoring in minor things. In The Leader Who Had No Title, my new book, I teach people how to block out the noise and focus on doing genius-level work and crafting an exceptional life. Because life's just too short to waste it getting seduced by unimportant things.

Dave:  What is in the message ‘lead without title¹ that seems to strike such a cord with people? What kind of reaction are you getting to this message?

Robin: Globally, the response to The Leader Who Had No Title and the "Lead Without a Title" message I've been sharing with organizations has been overwhelming. What I'm really sharing is "Leadership 2.0". The old model of leadership is broken. Now, for a business or a person to really succeed, we need to show leadership at every level. Whether you are a taxi driver or a CEO, we all need to lead and innovate and work at wow. Gandhi said it well: "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Dave:  What is your advice on how a leader can help his or her organization embrace the philosophy of ‘leading without title¹?

Robin: Lead By Example, Be inspirational-not just excellent, Focus on deep relationships, Deliver outrageous value, Be ridiculously competent, Leave a trail of leaders behind you.

Dave: As you consider your upcoming trip to Atlantic Canada, what do you see as the opportunities available to the leaders of this region?

Robin: To really develop "Lead Without a Title" cultures.

Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at His column appears every other Thursday.


HR | human resources

Product Update: Assessment Timer

by Rob Attwell 18. October 2010 22:03

Behavioural assessments are more likely to be valid if you control conditions during the assessment intake process.  In order to make sure that the assessments are completed continuously, without interruption and without second guessing by the assessment taker we have we have added an assessment timer to the Person Analysis. 


The timer allows you to restrict the amount of time available to candidates or employees completing the Person Analysis online to 7, 8, 10 or 12 minutes.  The amount of time remaining is displayed for the candidate as the go through the Person Analysis.  If the candidate does not complete the assessment within the specified time they are able to return to restart the assessment in 60 minutes using the same credentials.

The amount of time taken to complete all assessments is now recorded in the Person Analysis, Executive Summary and Administrative Data reports.

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DISC | human resources | HR