In a recent post, I talked about how the post-COVID economic recovery has intensified the battle for FP&A talent throughout the Chicago area. My focus was on how today’s successful hiring managers are moving decisively, rapidly, and engagingly to fill open positions, from the moment a top-tier candidate’s resume is received, through onboarding. Those who don’t move fast lose out.
But the pandemic has also led to unprecedented volatility at the C-suite level. For some executives, the COVID crisis became a time of introspection, re-evaluation of values and priorities, and, ultimately, the decision to step away. For others, the pandemic was a career test. Those who performed well last year have been wooed away to bigger, better opportunities. Those who flailed or failed are being replaced. Not surprisingly, this has been particularly true of the CFO role.
As a number of companies now scramble to fill these key positions, they’re coming face-to-face with a sobering reality: their succession plans are incomplete, obsolete, or non-existent. As a recruiting partner, I’m now engaged in planning conversations that extend beyond the immediacy of the current role being filled and into the larger discussions of the organization’s current bench strength, business continuity strategies, and succession plans.
Here are 3 questions I encourage every CFO, CHRO, and hiring manager to ask and answer in the earliest stages of the recruiting process.
How would the ideal candidate improve organizational bench strength?
Of course, you need to seek out the skills most urgently needed in the specific job you’re filling. But where are the gaps in your current team and larger organization? Have you identified specific employees who are ready to move into larger positions of responsibility as they open up? Taking the time to consider the strengths of each current employee – and how any abrupt departure of a key employee might impact long-term performance – can help guide a more strategic hire.
How well do I understand my employees’ individual goals?
For a growing number of talented individuals, the “career ladder” simply doesn’t exist anymore. Managers who assume that their best performers want the next-higher job on the org chart do so at their own peril. There are simply too many variables at play and an infinite number of ways for a talented, motivated person to build their own career today. As a result, the days of opaque succession planning are long gone. The best way to understand the current strengths and future needs of any team is through transparent, highly engaged conversations between employees and managers.How up-to-date is my succession plan? How likely is it to succeed?
The best business continuity and succession plans today are not based on little tweaks of old processes. They’re fresh approaches, built around the new realities of today’s workforce and the lessons learned over the past year and a half. Many of today’s most gifted leaders – a disproportionate number of them women – are choosing to leave their careers after finding it impossible to successfully juggle the needs of their families with the demands of their jobs or employers. Others may be physically sticking around while mentally disengaging from the goals or values of the organization. How are you responding? Are you willing to make the adaptations necessary to re-recruit these individuals? If so, how must you change your hiring process, workplace requirements, or even your own management style to make this work?
These aren’t easy questions. But here's the good news: if you’re willing to do invest in rigorous, up-to-date succession and bench strength planning you’re already placing yourself ahead of your competition. According to multiple recent studies, very few companies engage in what Deloitte recently called this “long-term discipline in a short-term world.”
As a strategic recruiting partner to our Chicago clients, the SkyWater Search Partners team is here to help you fill the right roles with the best talent. To learn more about how we can help you, please reach out. We would love to talk!