Recruiting Your Future: Learning through Succession Planning

This morning my, 7-year-old, football obsessed, son asked me, “If Matthew Stafford steps down from the Lions QB position, will Dan Orlovsky have to take his place?” I told him that may not happen because the Lions (his absolute favorite team) will know that Stafford is retiring and will recruit and trade the right people in the months and years leading up to it to make sure they are ready once he vacates his spot.

Isn’t this what we should do in every business? Shouldn’t we have a succession plan for all of our QBs?

Sports teams are so good at recruiting for their future. On draft day, they look at the “up and comers” from colleges, and they pick people whose skills they want to develop in the future. Sometimes they are recruiting for the current needs, but mostly they are recruiting for their future so that they will be ready to assemble the right team at the right time.

When we under-hire for some roles, and leave room for learning on the job, we build 2 things- an immediate challenging learning environment for the person we are bringing in, and a culture that embraces learning and growth.

Building a culture that embraces learning and growth.

The concept of mentorship has grown in interest as millennials are becoming the largest generation in the workplace. Younger employees are looking for someone who can mentor them in the workplace in hopes to move quicker up the ranks. Hiring someone into a growth role, with a mentor in place, can also help build your team in a way that ensures seamless transitions when critical people move up or out. Using tools that help assess aptitude for learning like those found at Creative Org Design, MindTools or Criteria Corp can help assess if someone is ready to take on bigger roles.

As a recruiter, it is my job to make sure that my clients are building teams with succession planning in mind. Can the candidate grow into the job? Is there someone on the team with the skills to take on a leadership role in 12-24 months? If not, we prioritize finding that person and get them on the team today.

Embrace a challenging learning environment.

Companies who are looking to change the status quo and stay on top of new technologies are always creating and fostering a challenging learning environment. Top companies have a deep understanding of the importance of learning within their workplace. It’s easy to pass the buck to top management and let everything trickle down, but when it comes to learning and development these decisions need to be made with the top leading the charge.

Not only do you have to convince top management of the benefits, but you’ll need smart and effective managers in order to properly train and develop associates while fostering different learning activities. Things such as defining learning objectives (What specially are your goals?), making resources available to staff (Do you have a company portal? What types of resources are available?) and training your managers on the importance of fostering their employees and embracing a culture of learning will help you develop your bench for the future.

Let’s learn from the sports pros- look at what your team needs to accomplish (win football games) and work with your recruiting partner to hire people that will help you achieve that goal now and in the future.

About the Author: Liz is a Lead Consultant at Proactive Talent Strategies focused on Recruiting Optimization and leading OnDemand Recruiting teams. She spent 9 years at VMware predominantly focused on building out the product management and product marketing groups before consulting to help companies such as SignalFx, Hortonworks, Greylock Partners and Evernote find top business-side talent. Learn more