Archive for the ‘Everything Else’ Category

Helping Managers Overcome Performance Review Anxiety

Thursday, March 24th, 2016


In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares helpful tips for managers looking to escape that dreaded performance review anxiety. 

Conducting performance reviews and discussions on a regular basis is a key part of a manager’s responsibility.  Conducting a performance review also carries a certain amount of anxiety, as any manager tasked with providing one can attest. There is always the potential of a dispute over the facts, a difference in perspective, or even an unplanned, unexpected, or premature discussion regarding compensation.

In order to effectively have performance discussions that identify employee accomplishments, address areas for improvement, and generate individual development plans, managers must get past any anxious feelings and move through the process confidently and deliberately. Below are some tips which will help managers overcome some of their apprehension:

Expect Some Negotiating 

Approximately one out of every five employees will work to negotiate some part of the performance review process.  It may be around the rating itself, the wording of the review pertaining to “areas for improvement” or even the compensation aspect of the review – even though this typically occurs in a subsequent discussion.   Expect it and be prepared for it.  Anticipating issues, understanding what latitude you have within your organization’s guidelines, and knowing your response(s) will go a long way towards you  being  successful in this part of the meeting.

Keep it Conversational 

Performance reviews should be conversational. Remember, this is also your employees’ opportunity to provide their input and feedback on the performance period under review.  By keeping it conversational, you will remain at ease as will your employee.

Know the Details 

Some performance reviews are conducted only once a year.  This makes it not only difficult, but imperative that details are provided during the review.  Recalling the specifics of something that happened ten months ago can be a challenge for both you and your employee.  Having accurate details can make things easier to discuss and avoid disputes. Moving forward consider meeting once a month to discuss progress towards goals and objectives. These discussions will benefit both you and the employee for the annual review meeting – which would now be more of a “year in review” format.

Take Time to Consider 

There may be questions or considerations which arise during a review that need some additional thought.  This may include an employee request about a different job assignment or perhaps a promotion.   If the answer is not obvious or if you are not prepared to have that conversation at the moment, advise the employee that you need additional time to consider his/her request.  This is reasonable, but make sure you get back the employee within the stated time allotted.

Time to Re-evaluate Process/Approach? 

If you have reviewed tips above and your managers still feel somewhat anxious about conducting a performance review, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your approach or the process in general.  Maybe the reason they are so uncomfortable is because something about the process leaves them with a lack of conviction in some area of either evaluating the employee’s performance, measuring improvement, ability to have a “critical conversation”, or some other aspect of the review details.

Maybe it’s time for a critical review of your process.  CAI can help – give our Advice & Resolution team a ring at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746!

Please be sure to share below any tips you have about overcoming the pressure and anxiety of performance reviews.

Can We Control Healthcare Cost By Utilizing Medicare?

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

hcwhealthcarepicThe post below is a guest blog from Dax Hill who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

Did you know Medicare reimbursement rates for healthcare are typically lower than reimbursement rates paid by insurance companies?  Some employers are taking notice and indexing their employer reimbursement rates to the Medicare rates in hopes of trying to control their medical claims spent.

This arrangement is typically called “Reference Based Contracting” or a “Cost Plus” program.

There are many flavors of these types of programs, but here’s how these funding arrangements generally work….

  • An employer self-funds their medical insurance plan utilizing a Third Party Administrator (TPA)
  • The TPA partners with a network of doctors to provide discounts on medical services for “professional” charges. The medical reimbursement rates are based on the negotiated charges agreed upon by the network and doctors….this is similar to most of the current arrangements.
  • For “facility” charges, though, things get interesting. Instead of using the typical insurance carrier’s negotiated rates, reimbursements are based on Medicare reimbursement rates. For example, the TPA agrees to reimburse the medical facility at 120% of the Medicare allowed amount.  Medicare reimbursement rates are generally much lower than the typical insurance carrier negotiated rates.  These lower reimbursements (indexed to Medicare) can lead to claims savings to both the employer and employee.

All of this sounds good so far – who doesn’t want to pay a lower price?  There must be some catch, right?  The main concern for these programs is this: what happens if the hospital or medical facility push back and do not accept the employer/TPA reimbursement rates?  The amounts over the employer’s allowed price gets transferred to the employee.

For example, let’s say an employee receives a $5,000 medical procedure and the employer’s allowed amount is $1,000.  In this scenario, the hospital may decide to “balance bill” the employee for the $4,000 difference.  It is important for the employee to appeal this balance bill.  Most TPAs that focus in this market partner with legal counsel that represent the employee at no additional cost to the employee.  The attorney handles the appeal for the employee.  The attorney will send the medical facility a letter stating the reimbursement is adhering to the employers ERISA plan document and the employee should not be balanced bill.  The attorney explains that the employer and employee are paying above what’s normally acceptable (since most of the facility’s patients are covered by Medicare).

At some point, hospitals and facilities will become more aggressive in trying to 1) collect the balance bill from the employee 2) refuse to provide healthcare to individuals that are enrolled on these types of insurance plans or 3) negotiate on the allowed amount.  In the meantime, these plans are getting attention of employers as they try to best manage their healthcare cost.

Take a look at the pros and cons of Reference Based Pricing and the key considerations employers should look at prior to implementing these plans in this white paper.

Here’s How HR Earns a Seat At the Business Table

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

In today’s post, Advice & Resolution Manager Rick Washburn discusses how HR professionals can earn their seat at the table by building a bridge between their role and the larger purpose of the company.

Do you have a “seat at the table?”  This is an age old question in HR circles and it is basically asking if you are an HR business partner and as such are you and your team delivering maximum results to help your business achieve its goals and strategy?  If you do not have a seat at the table what are you doing to earn it?  If you are just waiting for it to happen I’m afraid you may be out of luck.

HR professionals must ensure that there is a direct connection between the policies, programs, and services they offer and the organization’s larger purpose/picture.  Absent that clear and intentional linkage, HR is just a cost center that goes under appreciated and delivers minimum real value to the business.  In order for HR leaders to take a strategic approach to their work they must first fully understand their business (business acumen) and what the HR implications are to the business.  HR leaders must also be able to articulate their views clearly and concisely to business leaders which often times means taking an unpopular position (managerial courage).  Influence skills are exceptionally important also.

A prerequisite to the above is to ensure, at a minimum, that your HR organization is effectively and efficiently delivering HR services.  Providing good service is the price of admission; if HR cannot operate effectively as a “mini business,” it will be hard to convince others that its input on business issues is worth much.

A good place to start your HRPB journey: Staffing.  HR typically has influence when it comes to how staffing relates to strategy.  In other words, HR needs to recruit and hire X talent, in Y location(s) over a specific time frame in order for the business to perform and execute its strategy and there are many discussions with leaders in that process.  This is often a good place to leverage and increase HR’s role as a strategic partner.  Conversations with senior leaders in this space should be relatively easy to have. Ensure you have solid and meaningful staffing metrics such as the quality of hires, not simply how many hires over a given time frame. Incorporate competencies into your talent acquisition process to help ensure your hires are a “good fit.”  Include senior leaders in this process.

Once instilled in the recruiting process, competencies can easily be transitioned and effectively used in the performance management process to measure “how” employees are doing their jobs. The performance management process is a very effective way to articulate and cascade the company’s strategy and goals across the entire organization and can also be the catalyst for additional strategic discussions with senior leadership.

If you can effectively accomplish the above in your organization, you will have built a very solid foundation from which to grow into a true HR business partner role and earn your seat at the table. Please also review our Learn & GO HR/organizational modules on myCAI to help you in this journey.  If you would like to discuss this journey in the context of your current role and business environment please call Tom Sheehan or myself here at CAI.

For any other questions, please contact our Advice & Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746!


Why Meetings Fail

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

boringmeetingIn today’s post, CAI’s HR Business Partner Tom Sheehan shares the reasons why many meetings are so ineffective, and what HR professionals can do to change that.

As a leader you play a critical role in maximizing the effectiveness of your organization’s workforce. One thing that robs us of our time is poorly-run, inefficient meetings. Such meetings serve as an organizational ‘drag’ and are viewed by many employees as an incredible waste of time and resources.

Let’s examine why meetings are often so ineffective:

People don’t take meetings seriously

They arrive late, leave early, and spend most of their time thinking about what else they could be doing. Disciplined meetings are about mind-set that meetings are ‘real work’.  Intel, the semiconductor manufacturer, is famous for its crisp meeting execution. Walk into any conference room at any Intel factory or office anywhere in the world and you will see on the wall a poster with a series of simple questions about the meetings that take place there.

  1. Do you know the purpose of this meeting?
  2. Do you have an agenda?
  3. Do you know your role?
  4. Do you follow the rules for good minutes?

Meetings are too long

Meetings should accomplish twice as much in half the time. Most meetings should last no longer than 60 minutes. One reason meetings drag on is that people don’t appreciate how expensive they are. If the meeting organizer were forced to calculate and justify the meeting cost (the meeting length times all of the participants’ wage rates) you would begin to see fewer, shorter, and more productive meetings.

No meeting agenda

When there is no agenda participants spend too much time digressing and wandering off topic. Get serious about requiring meeting agendas. It’s the starting point for all advice on productive meetings…stick to the agenda. But it’s hard to stick to an agenda that doesn’t exist.

HR can help by creating an agenda template. Request that meeting organizers circulate the agenda several days before a meeting to let participants react to and modify it. The agenda should list the meeting’s key topics, who will lead which parts of the discussion, how long each segment will take, and what the expected outcomes are.

Of course, even the best agendas can’t guard against digressions, debates, and distractions. The challenge is to keep meetings focused without stifling creativity or insulting participants who stray. Encourage meeting leaders use a ‘parking lot’ to maintain that focus. When comments come up that aren’t related to the issue at hand, record them on a flip chart labeled the parking lot. Track the issue and the person responsible for it.

Nothing happens once the meeting ends

The end result of most meetings is a lot of talk, and little action. The problem is that people leave meetings with different views of what happened and what’s supposed to happen next. The best way to avoid that type of misunderstanding is the creation of a shared document that leads to action. In addition to meeting minutes, require the meeting organizer (or designee) to document ‘Actions and Decisions’.

Actions are those accountabilities that were assigned as a result of the meeting. For example, Jim has agreed to research time and attendance software options prior to our next meeting. He will report his findings back to the group at our next meeting.

Decisions are those items that the meeting group has made a clear decision on. The decision will now become part of the ‘going forward’ strategy and will eliminate second-guessing such as …’We talked about it, but I don’t think anything was actually decided’.

‘Actions and Decisions’ should always be the last topic on the agenda. For recurring meetings, start the agenda with the ‘Actions and Decisions’ that were carried over from the previous meeting.

Meetings are always missing important information, so critical decisions are postponed

This is why it is so important to have a clear, documented agenda outlining the topics to be discussed and decisions to be made. Without an agenda, participants arrive to the meeting unprepared. In essence, the result of the meeting becomes a de facto ‘pre-meeting’ in which everyone’s valuable time was wasted.

For additional guidance on how you can make your organization’s meetings more effective, please give our Advice & Resolution team a ring at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. If you have any further suggestions, we’d love to hear them in the comments section!

Three Messages from My Wife to Every HR Professional

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016
Doug Blizzard, VP of Membership

Doug Blizzard, VP of Membership

Not to air my personal laundry, but my lovely wife who recently went through a trying career experience has some important messages for HR.  I had to hear these messages almost every night for six months, so now you’re going to hear them.  Enjoy!

Let me set the stage.  Her employer of 27 years was purchased and her job was relocated to another part of the country. Suddenly her very predictable, comfortable world was turned upside down.  Her employer treated her very well on exit, but suddenly she had to figure out what to do with the rest of her life.  Sound familiar?  She devoted her entire working life to this one company.  I realize I’m biased, but she offered an impressive set of skills to future employers.  Promoted frequently, she was a solid professional.   Finding a new job would be easy…so she thought.

Message #1: Are companies really looking for good people?  My wife applied for over sixty positions during her six month job search, most of which were lower level. She just wanted to get a foot in the door.  She didn’t receive so much as a thank you email or even an acknowledgement from ANY of the positions for which she applied.  Not one, ever. And she was applying to name brand companies…who frankly should know better.  Ask yourself if your application process works the same way and if it does is that the message you want to send good people?

Message #2: Dial back your Applicant Tracking System a little, you’re missing good people!  She clearly understood why a company would have an ATS, however her experience was that there were so many nit-picky questions and it was obvious to her when she would fall out.   When was the last time you reviewed your ATS screening process?  Have you dialed it too tight to weed out the occasional bad apple?

Message #3: Don’t be too busy to network like I was.  I throw this last message in because rarely does a week go by that I don’t hear from an HR professional who suddenly finds themselves in the same position as my wife.  While she was working, my wife didn’t make time to network.  When she lost her job she just couldn’t get her head around what networking meant.  Is that an event I go to?  Is it Linkedin?  I don’t have a lot of contacts since I didn’t work to develop them during my career.  I don’t feel comfortable asking help from people I haven’t talked to in awhile.  Sound familiar?  Here’s one easy way you can build your network – visit the MyCAI Forum everyday and answer someone’s question.  That’s it, five minutes max! You’ll help someone and become known as an HR problem solver, and suddenly everyone will want to know you.  And then when you need help…

So how did my wife’s story end?  Well she was pretty depressed with the job search.  One night we went to a party at a friends house (she didn’t want to go).  A friend asked her what she’d been up to.  He needed someone with her skill set to do commercial business development for his small business.  She’d never been in BD before, but had a lot of knowledge of and contacts in his industry.  She started six months ago.  His little company had it’s best year ever and is now the fifth largest provider in the country.  He attributes a good part of the growth to her.  Not bad!  And again, sixty other local companies didn’t even acknowledge her application.  Their loss.  Think about it!

Have any other helpful messages you’d like to send to HR? Let us know in the comments!

Are You Getting Leadership Development Right?

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

leadership developmentIn today’s post, CAI’s HR Business Partner Tom Sheehan shares strategies HR professionals can take to ensure their next generation of leaders are prepared to fill the shoes of their predecessors and lead their business to future success. 

One topic that is a constant point of dialogue for HR professionals is leadership development. The quality of leadership, more than any other factor, often determines the success or failure of an organization. Leadership development helps to improve leadership quality by ensuring that leaders possess the competencies to achieve the organization’s strategy, continue to improve the organizational culture, and strengthen organizational capabilities.

The best investment an organization can make is in the development of its future leaders. Such an investment yields both short-term and long-term dividends. In the short-term, leaders will be better prepared for the challenges they face in their current roles. They will also be more likely to help foster a learning culture if they themselves are an active participant in learning.

Additionally, and more importantly, the risk associated with leadership departures is greatly reduced by improved better bench strength that is a consequence of leadership development. Many organizations fail to adequately develop the next generation of people who will replace individuals in these leadership roles. Making matters worse is the fact that a significant number of baby-boomers will be retiring in the next 5 years.

On one hand, the responsibility for an organizational commitment to developing future leaders begins with the executive team.

On the other hand, HR should own all talent processes and must play a key role in spotlighting the issue and driving the leadership development and succession planning processes.

Forward-looking HR professionals should begin the process by answering these questions:

  1. What are we doing to prepare our next generation of leaders?
  2. Is our pipeline filled with the talent needed to carry out our organization’s strategy?
  3. Who is the ‘person in charge’ of developing our new leaders?
  4. Is leadership development an organizational priority?
  5. How are our top leaders involved?

Where to Start

Step 1: Align with strategy

Ensure that the leadership development efforts are aligned to the organization’s mission, vision, values, and strategic plan. Senior leaders also must accept that leadership development is a lengthy process.

Step 2: Create common set of values

Ensure that there is a common set of leadership values and standards that permeate everything the organization does including-  recruiting, hiring, succession planning, and performance management.

A good starting point for the values may include the following:

  • Results Focus
  • Accountability
  • Respect for Others
  • Leveraging Diversity
  • Effective Communication
  • Building Trust

Step 3: Communicate the philosophy

Create a leadership development philosophy statement that defines the principles the organization champions. A leadership development philosophy provides direction for those crafting the plan and a communication tool to help the organization understand leadership development.

Step 4: Agree upon objectives

Make certain that all leaders are aligned to the following objectives:

  1. Make improving bench strength a top priority (including succession and retention plans)
  2. Ensure each leader takes responsibility for developing future leaders
  3. Measure the business results of leadership development
  4. Making learning an organizational priority
  5. Create formal development plans for emerging leaders

Lack of true engaged support from current leaders is one of the key reasons that leadership development fails. Your role as an HR professional is to help senior leaders see leadership development as a strategy as opposed to being the project du jour. Identifying and improving the quality of leaders must be a top priority to ensure a filled pipeline of experienced employees ready to be placed.

For any further questions about how you can support leadership development, please give our Advice & Resolution team a ring at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. If you have any suggestions as to how to improve leadership development, we’d love to hear them in the comments section!

Pay Attention to Causes of Preventable Employee Turnover

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016
Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News and Observer column, The View from HR.

When employees leave their jobs, we in Human Resources call it turnover. Then we label it “voluntary” or “involuntary” and assign drop-down reasons like “higher pay.” These labels are more about what happened than why it happened. You want to know why, not just what.

Turnover has as many causes as there are managers and employees. These four causes of preventable talent loss need more attention.

“I didn’t know.”I did not know this job had so much travel, that I have to cold call, that there is so much pressure to produce, that the business is unsound, that my manager is inexperienced, that it requires weekend work” and so on. These things are discoverable during the interview and application processes. Both sides own the problem: employers tend to accentuate the positive and applicants want to appear eager. If everyone spent more time in interviews talking about the job realities (and not just the fun stuff), painful and expensive early turnover would be reduced.

“We never talked about it”. I am convinced much of the turnover among talented, experienced and high potential contributors is caused by a lack of communication. Sure, no workplace has every opportunity or salary level a key player needs. Leaving for a new role might make the most sense. Too often, a great employee leaves because they do not understand all the ways this workplace could be as good as or greener than the grass on the other side.

Whether the motive to leave is pain avoidance (manager, hours, stress, type of work) or opportunity seeking (responsibility, autonomy, flexibility, pay) open conversations with a trusted mentor/manager will either make the choice clearer or uncover alternatives meeting everyone’s needs. Great managers create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing these big decisions in time to respond.

“I need a change.” Some people need change. What used to be challenging becomes routine. Without new challenges, the normal push and pull of any job seems futile. What is this all about? Why work this hard each day for the same set of problems, people, customers and results? This happens at all pay levels.

It should be easy to agree on fresh objectives, skills and behaviors the business truly needs. Even without a new role, finding better and more effective ways to do important things requires good communication and agreement. Your best people are hungry for this conversation.

This is an emotional decision. Sometimes, the decision to change jobs is mostly about pay, but usually emotion controls. Where will I enjoy my work more, where will I get new challenges, where will I have an impact on real people, where can I find a manager who knows how to manage? Employers that understand the importance of emotion in decisions to leave can address them proactively. The signs are usually present. Explaining turnover in primarily rational and economic terms misses the mark.

Of course there are often institutional reasons for turnover, but remember the individual, preventable and emotional reasons.

Will Employees Be Working for Free on Leap Day?

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

February-29While February is known for its famously short 28 days, every four years the month extends itself an extra day on the 29th of February. This year, this extra day will fall next Monday. While many employees may wish for a Leap Day Holiday off of work, most will still make their way to the office. But the question remains: Is Leap Day good or bad for employees? Well, that may depend on who you’re asking.

For hourly, non-exempt workers, coming into work on Leap Day may be a welcome occurrence: their employers will pay them for hours worked, and if they work an extra day this year, that’s roughly eight more hours of paid work on their paychecks this year than in a non-Leap Year.

Sounds like a win-win, right? Well, for salaried, exempt employees, the situation might be a little different.

If salaried workers earn a set amount each year irrespective of hours worked, yet there’s one extra day of work this year, does that mean they are working for free on Leap Day? The answer to this question can be puzzling, and it turns out even employment experts cannot come to a general consensus on the issue.

Daniel Schwartz, an employment attorney, believes employers could be getting a day’s worth of work for free from their employers.

“For the extra day, the employer really isn’t paying anything more for an exempt worker. The annual salary is just that, and the paychecks just reflect the portion of the year. Many employers thus get a ‘free’ day of work from exempt workers because they are not paying anything more than in non-Leap Years,” he wrote on the Connecticut Employment Law Blog.

Frank Heinz, a reporter from NBC, begs to differ.

“The short answer is no, you aren’t working for free on Leap Day … you’re just working for less than normal,” Heinz writes.

“Let’s assume you make $50,000 per year in a non-Leap Year.  If we take that salary and divide it by the 261 work days, that breaks down to $191.57 gross income, per day,” he goes on to explain. “During a Leap Year, with 262 work days, that breaks down to $190.84 gross income, per day.  That means during a Leap Year you will make .73 cents less per day in order to fund your salary on Feb. 29.”

But what the issue really may come down to is how your company’s pay schedule is set up.

A typical year will have 52 weeks plus one day, but a Leap Year has 52 weeks plus two days.  If your company’s designated payday falls on this extra day, it could mean an additional paycheck for your employees.

More than likely, employers will build this extra day into the yearly salary, and reduce a worker’s paycheck installment in order to make it all come out even at the end of the year.

However your business structures its payroll, whether it’s through weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly installments, it is imperative for HR professionals to take the time to examine whether their employees’ pay will be affected by the upcoming Leap Day.

If you find that it will alter your pay structure, be prepared to discuss the issue and how your business will respond with your employees. It is, after all, their right to know how their pay could be affected.

For any further questions on how Leap Day might affect your payroll, don’t hesitate to give our Advice & Resolution team a ring at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. Have a Happy Leap Day everyone!

When Worksite Plans Work

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

HCWBenPicThe post below is a guest blog from Rob Krieg who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

Voluntary benefits or worksite plans refer to the insurance products that can be offered by employers on an individual or group basis to pay individuals for a variety of life events such as getting injured in an accident, being diagnosed with a serious health condition, or being admitted into the hospital. Examples of these plans include critical illness, cancer, accident, hospital indemnity, and permanent life insurance…to name a few of the most popular.

Enrollment in voluntary or worksite plans continues to increase rapidly as more and more employers are offering, and employees are asking, for these benefits.

The number of carriers offering these benefits has also increased drastically. While traditional players in this market space (such as Aflac, Allstate and Colonial) continue to offer quality products, many of the insurance carriers who have previously focused on “core” group benefits such as term life insurance and disability insurance have now started to offer a variety of worksite plans. The growth of new players in the market has created competition where plan premiums are going down while benefits go up. Even more importantly… these carriers are actually paying when a claim is submitted!

The value of these worksite plans and the hassle-free payment of claims was something I was skeptical of until I received a firsthand experience in their benefits. This past April, HCW offered a critical illness/cancer policy as well as an accident plan for employees to purchase. Who knew that taking ten minutes out of my day to meet with an individual enrollment specialist ended up being worth over $12,500 to my family this year?

Our enrollment specialist educated me that the critical illness and accident plans both offered an annual wellness screening benefit that if submitted each year would almost entirely cover the cost of my annual insurance premium. Since I was interested in experiencing first hand why so many employees throughout the country were purchasing these plans I decided to sign up, thinking I would have no use for the benefits but at least my premiums could be offset by the wellness reimbursement.

Unfortunately, just two months after purchasing these products I sustained an injury while playing basketball with my children which required surgery, a lengthy stint on crutches, and physical therapy. Then less than two months after my accident, my wife was diagnosed with a condition that also required surgery and treatment. The money received from our policies helped pay for childcare, out-of-pocket medical care, and even had a little left over to pay for a family trip to celebrate our recoveries.

While both my wife and I would prefer to go back in time, give the money back, and not have these events happen, having the financial payments from the accident and critical illness plans certainly helped ease the burden during this time. I am thankful that my employer decided to offer these benefits, and required that I spent a few minutes meeting with an individual enrollment specialist to better understand the benefits being offered.

If you have questions about worksite plans, and if they might be a good option for you, contact HCW’s Enrollment Services & Voluntary Benefit Solutions Team.


Is Your Succession Plan Transparent?

Thursday, February 18th, 2016
Rick Washburn, A&R Manager

Rick Washburn, A&R Manager

In today’s post, Advice & Resolution Manager Rick Washburn discusses the importance of creating a transparent succession plan for your business and fostering an open dialogue between managers and employees regarding career development.

Succession planning is at the very heart of any talent management program.  Done properly it is the process of identifying and/or developing talent for future business needs.

Is your succession plan transparent?  Do your business leaders have open dialogues about employee development, high-potential employees, and the like? Transparent succession plans create trust and the employee buy-in necessary to help the business retain top performers and reduce turn-over.  These plans also facilitate open discussions about career paths and development opportunities and helps leaders ensure that they do not unknowingly force top performers down paths that they would rather not go down.

The best succession plans, according to a 2012 Aon Hewitt study, drive proactive development of leaders and create distinct competitive advantages.  These plans are as transparent as possible and encourage trust and integrity, while minimizing internal politics.   In a 2010 Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) Leadership survey, 77% of the respondents said it was highly desirable for them to be formally identified and acknowledged as high-potential employees.

Transparency is also a key component of an organizations’ engagement and retention strategies. Leadership development plans that are communicated directly to succession plan participants is a vital element of these strategies.  Employees appreciate the time and effort that is being invested on their behalf both today and in the future.   According to a 2014 Towers Watson survey, more than half of the employers surveyed reported having difficulty retaining high-potential employees.  Letting your employees know that their skills and experience are valued dissuades top performers from leaving.

As mentioned above, it is also important to discuss career aspirations with employees to determine their level of interest in opportunities within your business.  A specific skill may not align with an employee’s ambitions.  Being upfront and open with employees leads to both more effective succession plans and more engaged leaders in your business.

So then, why do many employers struggle with the question of how and when to tell high potential employees (HIPOTS) they are high potentials?  One reason may be because of the risks of disengaging other employees who aren’t considered as HIPOTS.

To avoid this problem, Barry Conchie, a Gallup Senior Scientist and coauthor of the bestseller Strengths Based Leadership recommends that “Before a company says anything to its high-potential leaders, it must determine the criteria that it will use to identify top leadership talent.  Those criteria must be explicit and public. It’s important for people to know what qualifies them to be on the list.”  Conchie notes that many companies select leaders based on personality traits or likability, not demonstrated leadership talent.  This can damage engagement among other employees who think they should be leaders but were not picked.

Another barrier is that once you tell someone they are a HIPOT, if they don’t feel the love from you in terms of development, assignments, and even compensation some are apt to look elsewhere.   Notes Conchie, “you have to pay them what they’re worth or they’ll leave…They have to feel special because they are special. There are harsh economic realities here.”

For any assistance in developing or improving upon your business’s succession plan please give Tom Sheehan (919-325-4113) or myself (919-713-5247) a call today.