Revolutionise career and succession management

Billy Elliott, country manager at the Top Employers Institute (TEI) South Africa

Billy Elliott, country manager at the Top Employers Institute (TEI) South Africa

In a fundamentally shifting business environment, how are HR managers and business leaders to approach talent management and retention? 

The Top Employers Institute (TEI) recently published its Career & Succession Management Report and a key finding was that a new generation of employees is valuing varied working experience and flexibility far more than traditional, linear progression up the corporate ladder. In other words, employees are no longer content simply to wait their turn to begin the slow climb to the top. They want variety, growth opportunities and adjustability. And if they don’t get it, they’ll go elsewhere.

This has significant implications for businesses wanting to retain their competitive edge. 

The report is based on research findings from a global HR Best Practices Survey among a sample group of 600 Top Employers in 96 countries. 

The report found that employees prefer a greater degree of transparency at all levels of their organisation. It is not a particularly competitive practice for management to focus career development programmes only on the upper echelons of the organisation or on top performers. Diverse development plans, directed through all levels of an organisation, are the key. 

One of the key factors forcing HR managers to rethink their methods is that the new generation of workers is taking greater responsibility for its own career management. This results in less loyalty to employers and less interest in the traditional step-by-step career climb. This, in turn, causes intense competition for critical skills and talent. 

Despite high unemployment levels, it can still be challenging to source the best talent for the job  and there is also the concern that top performers will leave for greener pastures once the job market is in a better position. A good succession planning strategy can prevent this problem from arising. 

Matimba Mbungela, chief HR officer at Top Employer, Vodacom, says: “The challenge lies in building a diverse leadership pipeline, taking into account key factors such as race, gender, and age. Vodacom has risen to the challenge through the following initiatives: Female Leaders Programme in Waiting; Discover Grads, local leadership development programmes such as Ascend/VAEP, and robust succession planning driven at a local and regional level.” The company also relies on blended learning capability building programmes, says Mbungela.

Chief executive of the Top Employers Institute David Plink said: “What is needed is a broader approach to employee development with greater awareness for the changed needs and values of the younger workforce. HR managers have to move away from being talent hoarders to playing their part as talent producers.” 

In other words, organisations have to develop talent, not just source it.   

So what are Top Employers doing right? Firstly, they are transparent. Employees become disengaged if they feel there is secrecy, preferential treatment, or a lack of open opportunity. A second finding in the report was that successful organisations are increasingly using “Talent Suites” — technologies that address the four pillars of talent management: recruitment, performance management, learning and development and compensation management. 

The most popular career and succession management practice supported by technology is an online personal management plan, used by 85% of certified Top Employers. Talent suites go beyond the traditional payroll system and offer an at-a-glance view of an employee’s status in the organisation. 

Third, as mentioned above, they let their employees take the lead in their own development. And lastly, as the study showed from the word go, they offer a variety of opportunities. 

Difficult? Easier than it may sound. Let your employees point out the route and you may be surprised at where they lead you. 

Just remember the key tips: be transparent; use the technology; let employees take the lead in their own development; and offer a variety of opportunities organisation-wide. It may make all the difference.

Billy Elliott is country manager of Top Employer Institute South Africa