03.07.2014 | “Welcome on board!” – For a successful start!
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Welcome on board!” –
For a successful start!

Make sure your new staff gets onboard effectively – before and after “takeoff”, until the optimum cruising altitude is reached. Successfully integrating new employees into the company is not merely something done on the side. Proper onboarding involves much more than simply handing out the key card and bouquet of flowers on the first day of work. To ensure a new staff member feels professionally and socially comfortable at your company and reaches the optimum cruising altitude as quickly as possible, you need to remember some things, and these apply to small and medium-sized businesses as well as large national or international corporate groups.

Effective onboarding – important for every new employee and profitable for your company. Recent studies show that newly-acquired staff who receive intensive, personalized orientation reach their full productivity about four times as fast. The amount of time they stay at the company also increases significantly. Conversely, a study conducted by RSVP Leadership Services in summer 2013 shows that many companies either do not properly recognize the potential of successful onboarding or fail to utilize it in practice:

- Upon joining, only about a quarter of new staff undergo an established onboarding process, lasting anywhere from two days to three months.
- Most of the technical equipment at the workplace is available from the outset but barely half the interviewees are promptly introduced to colleagues, staff and other important people.
- Many new staff members complain about a lack of organizational charts or lists of relevant contacts at the company as well as the lack of training in organizational structures and company processes.
- Most simply receive their orientation from divisional managers or colleagues. Only a very small number are offered support by a mentor or buddy during the initial phase and very few can name a direct contact person in HR.
- About a third of newcomers are given no opportunity to discuss mutual expectations with the boss during the orientation period.
- Many new employees have no regular exchanges with their supervisor. Absent/overloaded or passive supervisors, as well as unstructured or excessively rigid/schematic orientation plans, are particularly cited as difficulties.
External coaching, which has been in effect in the USA for some time now, is clearly almost nonexistent.
- Only a fifth of interviewees rate their orientation as very good. Over a third are left completely on their own.

These sorts of experiences tend to be more of the rule than the exception so there is obviously a need for action. Of course, personalized, targeted onboarding requires lots of time and energy. But it is worth it – for every new staff member and for your company.

Captain, steward and crew – different requirements, expectations and goals.
Can you remember your last “first day” at a new company? How did you feel? You are joining a new company, and, as a captain or crew member, you are expected to be able to “fly” straight away. But every company is new territory with its own corporate culture, own language, own rules, new supervisors, colleagues and established structures and processes.

Whether it be after a new hiring or internal transfer, the onboarding of each new employee takes place at three levels: the professional, social and value-oriented level. The new staff member is also often faced with the challenge of filling three roles at once: as the new employee of his/her boss, as the new supervisor of his/her staff and as the new colleague of his/her peers. Coupled with this is the fact that three parties with different focuses are all working towards successful integration: the new staff member themselves, the supervisor and the relevant HR manager. They all have the same aim but different perspectives.

What the new staff member wants:
- Orientation
- Integration and further development of his/her skills
- A challenge without excessive demands
- Avoidance of unnecessary conflicts during the orientation phase
- A solid network
- Autonomy

Onboarding begins for the new staff member once he/she starts dealing with the new task and the potential new employer. It has proven to be worthwhile for them to ask themselves the following questions beforehand:
- What exactly is my new task?
- What is expected of me in this role?
- How does the new task differ from what I previously did?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses in relation to the new position?
- What is the corporate culture like in my new environment?
- How do I fit into this culture?
- How did the new environment previously handle “new arrivals”?
- What team have I joined and what are its dynamics?
- How does my leadership style fit into this team?

It is extremely useful to answer these questions so the employee can get active in his/her new role. It also helps to communicate your own expectations and to find out the expectations of supervisors, colleagues and other staff. That is the only way to set up guardrails for the staff member to get his/her bearings and profitably apply or develop his/her skills.

The company can also get active before and directly after “takeoff”. There are many different ways and means of facilitating the new staff member’s integration into the company and his/her team:
- Administrative tasks or paperwork are completed before duties are commenced.
- An initial information meeting with the new employer and colleagues at company events (e.g., summer fair, Christmas party) before starting has a positive effect.
- A fully-equipped workstation or even the provision of a company car upon commencement of work should be a given, as is a briefing of all colleagues and staff by the supervisor.
- A “welcome pack” should contain a welcome letter as well as general information about the company, e.g., flow charts, abbreviations, etc., and a schedule to familiarize the new staff member with his/her new environment.
- A “mentor” from a higher level or a “buddy” on the same level is provided to the new staff member as a contact who intensively and personally supports him/her during the orientation phase.
- An external coach is available as a neutral contact that assists the new employee with (self-)reflection and sharpens his/her attention to detail.

What the supervisor wants:
- Shorter phase until visible productivity
- Effectiveness and efficiency
- Maximum performance
- Minimal unrest in his/her department
- Motivation
- Commitment
- Creation and preservation of know-how

The manager must generally fill a space in his/her team with someone who meets the vacancy’s requirements as far as possible. He/she describes the professional and social skills the new team member needs to possess and which can be further developed in the short term. The clearer these expectations are, the more successfully the new employee can be fully integrated into the team within a short period of time.

- It is helpful to establish a mutual understanding between the manager and the new employee right from the start and to include development fields in his/her integration plan.
- This removes any doubts the new employee may have about his/her weaknesses, and conversely, the supervisor can ensure the staff member is quickly capable of meeting the requirements of the new position.
- Providing a buddy or mentor saves a lot of time and energy, which the staff member needs to get his/her bearings in the new environment.
- The appreciation shown to the employee through careful onboarding in the initial phase and the commitment achieved through social integration increases the likelihood of the staff member staying at the company for a longer period of time.

What the HR manager wants:
- Commitment
- Identification
- Co-entrepreneurship
- Immunity to headhunting attempts
- Employer branding

The company’s HR department not only plays a key role in recruiting and staff development but also in onboarding. Its specific expertise means it can ensure consistently high standards across the company when it comes to integrating new staff. Ideally, a responsible staff member or team will be appointed to look after the strategic and operational side of the onboarding process. Thus, their tasks are very diverse:

- Helping new employees with relocation and tax issues.
- Providing a generic orientation plan amended by the hiring manager to include technical, department-specific and personal matters.
- Planning training measures to address individual development fields.
- Preparing general company information – from the list of company abbreviations to a description of the corporate culture.
- Organizing a “Welcome Day” or multi-day onboarding program as well as setting up a portal for newcomers (and others) on the Intranet.
- Providing opportunities for exchanges between new staff members as well as for networking beyond their own department.
- Developing a buddy or mentor system.
- Hiring an external coach as a neutral point of contact.
- Establishing a nationally and internationally standard quality level for the onboarding phase (including feedback on the onboarding process).
- Establishing early measures to strengthen staff loyalty (internally) and the employer brand (externally).

Air traffic controllers in the “tower” – We accompany you through a tailored, controlled and structured onboarding process. Our long-time experience has shown that companies are often not familiar with the aforementioned aspects and measures associated with successful onboarding or have not paid enough attention to them. If this is the case for you, we will be glad to assist as external air traffic controllers in the “tower”, so to speak.

We will teach you how to combine skillful expectations management with a consistent communications strategy, take all participating parties’ needs into account and address them no matter in which stage of the process they may be. We will also help you with the organizational and content-based side of establishing an “onboarding team” consisting of the superior manager, relevant HR business partner, an internal mentor for the new staff member and an external coach. And if you want to get started on your staffing decisions even earlier, we will provide you with a business culture analysis containing important reference points for filtering out the most suitable (not just professionally) candidates for a position from the pool of applicants during the recruiting process and subsequent assessments.

RSVP Leadership Services offers simple, flexible advice on developing and creating a system for smoother, faster, more efficient integration of your new staff, tailored to the needs of your company. We provide your new team members and managers with targeted assistance during their integration as well as valuable incentives and stimulation, for example, through workshops and/or coaching. Contact us if you are interested in a competent discussion on the topic of onboarding!

The RSVP Group is a leading HR-consulting company for the Life Sciences industry and affiliated sectors. Our customers are global market leaders in the fields of pharmaceuticals, chemistry, healthcare, medical technology and biotechnology. Our success is based on long-lasting, trustworthy customer relationships and in-depth knowledge of the market and industry. With offices in Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, Zurich, London, New York, Princeton, Singapore and Shanghai, we have a strong international focus. With some 50 staff, we offer our customers a wide range of services and solutions related to executive searches and HR development.
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Ulrike Mészáros
T +49 611 335599 0

F +49 611 335599 11
Mobile +49 175 241 9452

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11.02.2015 | The Resilient Organization as the Enterprise of the Future
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The Resilient Organization
as the Enterprise of the Future

„... and what’s really frightening, or interesting, depending on your perspective, is that the change from now on will even be faster and bigger than we’re expecting.

Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts, 1996

Even if Negroponte's words are now almost 20 years old, they have not lost their relevance. For companies to remain viable in a period featuring so much change, and to be able to actually exploit it as a means for achieving growth, they require plenty of flexibility and adaptability, not to mention robustness. They must succeed in mastering social and economic changes, both extraneous to and within the enterprise and to positively influence these phenomena wherever possible. This ability is known as "resilience".

Evidence of its relevance includes current reports issued by the statutory medical insurance funds in which they all point to increasing case numbers of mental illness; a situation blamed, in large part, on negative stress in the workplace that end in burn-out .

Culture, leadership, the individual
An organization's resilience is largely determined by 3 factors: the corporate culture, the leadership culture and the resilience of the employees as individuals. The resilience of top managers is particularly critical in this respect. So much is clear; only those managers capable of emerging relatively unscathed or even invigorated from personal and professional crises can act as role models. Given that their behaviour also has a direct bearing on the enterprise and leadership culture, organizations will only be enduringly competitive and have the requisite resilience and adaptability if the management team largely consists of resilient individuals.

In the long term, successful organizations are the ones that exhibit a culture in which:
- their employees pursue a common vision and share a common system of values
- changes within the surrounding environment are perceived as being both a challenge as well as an opportunity for future development
- actions are undertaken with foresight, equanimity and an appreciation of value
- acceptance of the situation at hand is combined with a problem-solving attitude
- there is a prevailing desire to positively engage and a conviction that influence can be exerted
- there is readiness to assume and designate responsibility, even if mistakes could result
- great significance is placed on relationships and networks inside and outside the organization
- the future is permanently in focus.

A corporate culture can only develop in this way if all managers, if possible, can pull in the same direction to create an environment in which employees flourish and behave accordingly.

The preconditions for this are:
- that the managers are role models in conveying a common vision and set of values, that they act with integrity, typify a constructive philosophy in dealing with mistakes (including their own) and challenge employees through clear rules and expectations while also encouraging them with support and appreciative feedback
- a participative leadership style, which involves employees in decision-making, thereby, boosting levels of identification, motivation and self-reliance
- a positive attitude towards people, one that encourages their development
- the establishment and preservation of supportive relationships and networks
- an awareness and acceptance of the interactions between the organization and its environment and the anticipation of the challenges that emanate there
- internalized resilience and the acumen to deal to with stress.

The majority of workers want to believe in their company, to identify with it and participate in it. However, what should be done if this belief is ever shaken? If it ever becomes apparent that external, or even internal upheavals presage turbulent times ahead or that the frequency of changes is gathering pace rather than slowing as anticipated? If there is an impending risk of a plummet in the collective sense of self-confidence and ability to perform?

Although it would be better to prepare well in advance for such all too common scenarios, at this stage, it is now high time to put some effort into establishing a degree of robustness because the good news is ... resilience can be learned.

Every person, and therefore every organization, has a certain inherent level of tolerance to new situations and stress; some have more, others less. And each and every individual can enhance their own corresponding abilities. However, somewhat akin to building up personal fitness, anyone seeking to strengthen their resilience needs to work at it with dedication and persistence. The decisiveness such training has for the individual or the organization as a whole frequently only becomes apparent in retrospect, i.e., when the change has revealed its full effects.

Remaining properly functional, even in times of crisis, demands that every company employee, and managers in particular, possess an appropriate degree of intellectual flexibility, emotional stability and physical equilibrium.

"Self"-management and intellectual flexibility
Self-management is particularly important when it comes to intellectual versatility. Consciously controlling personal thoughts and feelings helps break out of unproductive circular thought patterns and to concentrate on those areas in which a personal influence is feasible rather than fritter away vital energy in trying to change the unchangeable. By taking regular and conscious pauses and by critically observing their own "selves", managers can create a space between themselves and their actual role; a space that allows them to reassess their own internalized attitudes. This shift in perspective frequently reveals other possible courses of action.

By adopting this "self-observer" stance, the individual can also gain awareness of their formative values as well as their own, possibly exaggerated, expectations, through which they can better understand their own personal patterns of behaviour and response. If this results in the repeated and successful application of new thinking patterns and the testing of new modes of behaviour, the individual will experience a gradually increasing level of faith in their own autonomy and their power to exert an influence. This is especially effective because rather than the challenging situation itself, it is the perceived lack of suitable response strategies that generates negative stress.

Vision, goals and emotional stability
The commonly-shared vision of an enterprise's goals is much more than mere consultancy jargon. It enables managers to give concrete shape to the goals of the enterprise and break them down to such an extent that they can be largely reconciled with their own personal targets and those of their employees. This is the only approach for ensuring that, in the long term, everyone in the organization acts through personal motivation instead of merely "working to rote". It is also critical to this exercise that the right people are placed in the right positions within the company. Suitably matching the role holder with the role is essential to challenging employees without overextending them. If a balance can be successfully reached between performance standards and the available acumen then "working in the flow" is achievable; within a short time this state of having a perfect equilibrium between requirements and capacities brings improved work results and greater satisfaction regarding personal work activities. However, by definition, "flow" is not something set in stone but instead it describes a temporary state which can only be regained by continuously further developing abilities. Therefore, it also creates an incentive to augment personal competencies; opening up the opportunity for personal growth by constantly pushing back the boundaries of the individual's comfort zone. Expanding this "sphere of action", in turn, increases the levels of resilience within the individual and within the team.

One essential strategy for maintaining an emotional balance during times of crisis is to identify and unlock personal resources at an early stage. If managers have a clear view of what specific thoughts and activities give them traction, imbue them with strength or even inspire them, they can deliberately deploy these to create balance in demanding situations. At the same time, they should form support structures and actively work at cultivating relationships. Genuine, deep friendships, the family as a buttress and a constructive, appreciative manner of interacting with colleagues and business partners can constitute vital sources of strength, and somewhat "de-skew" one's own perception. An honest exchange with a trusted individual can reveal wholly new insights, especially in relation to one's self and create a safe area in which to talk candidly about any possible personal worries and doubts.

Healthy body, healthy mind
The importance of physical fitness and health should not ignored because the body is not merely a shell or a tool that helps the brain to function; physical imbalances can, conversely, directly influence thoughts and behaviour. It should be self-evident to everyone that adequate amounts of sleep and relaxation, regular movement and a balanced diet constitute the basis for physical well-being. Having regular medical check-ups is at least as important, as is paying heed to acute signals emitted by the body and having these promptly investigated. This can often be more difficult than it sounds, particularly in times of stress, because warning signs go unnoticed or are suppressed, or due to the attitude of "I don't have the time" to deal with these properly.

All told, a comprehensive level of preparation, directed at the level of the individual, the management and the organization, is essential for an enterprise to acquire the resilience to cope with unforeseeable and unexpected changes and difficulties. In this context, the organization should be less concerned with deflecting new developments or rebounding from crises in the self same state as before, and more focused on adapting early to new circumstances in order to gain a competitive advantage. This is only feasible if the corporate culture permits the appropriate processes of adjustment to occur by exhibiting a degree of improvisational capacity, having a zest for innovation and tolerating mistakes. In addition to this, managers must, on the one hand, be properly prepared for their leadership roles and, on the other, receive support in critical situations with their team. Finally, it should be ensured that every individual within the enterprise is accorded the position best suited to them and that targeted intervention measures are utilized to help all employees establish their own personal resilience.

RSVP Leadership Services offers flexible, uncomplicated guidance to assist you in the development of a concept for the establishment of organizational resilience specifically tailored to your business and we can give your managers the support they need to strengthen their own individual levels of resilience. If you would like to meet with experts to discuss the subject of resilience, simply contact us!

The RSVP Group is a leading HR-consulting company for the Life Sciences industry and affiliated sectors. Our customers are global market leaders in the fields of pharmaceuticals, chemistry, healthcare, medical technology and biotechnology. Our success is based on long-lasting, trustworthy customer relationships and in-depth knowledge of the market and industry. With offices in Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, Zurich, London, New York, Princeton, Singapore and Shanghai, we have a strong international focus. With some 50 staff, we offer our customers a wide range of services and solutions related to executive searches and HR development.
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Ulrike Mészáros
T +49 611 335599 0

F +49 611 335599 11
Mobile +49 175 241 9452

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10.09.2015 | Management Appraisal – A Neutral Look from Another Perspective
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Management Appraisal – A Neutral Look from Another Perspective

John Winston and Olivia Ferreira shake hands and smile into the camera for the press photo. A possible merger of the two companies had long been rumoured and the industry excitedly awaited the new global player on the market.

While her American partner, in a great mood, spoke a few pithy words into the microphone to the reporters, in her thoughts, Ferreira was back with her team. Who would she be able to take with her on the long journey? For whom would there soon be no more space in the new organization? These were the questions currently on her mind.

Satisfied, Pierre Lagarde leans back in his chair. His first days as Managing Director of MedtechTron SA had gone well. He had obtained an overview of the company’s financial situation and had already gotten to know the majority of the staff. However, he could not yet really assess the management qualities of the senior executives he had met in person in the past week. Up to now, there had been no targeted staff development at MedtechTron; the managers, some of whom had been with the company for over 20 years, had gradually “grown into” their tasks. Lagarde decides to take stock. “If I’m going to successfully lead this company into the future, I have to know whom I can count on in tackling upcoming difficulties. Also, who knows what unused potential may be slumbering in the ranks of my new team?”

“From now, we’re going in a completely different direction,”
Paul Livingston said with a clenched fist. “I’ve got a good feeling, Dan.” “With all due respect to your optimism,” smiled his board colleague, Daniel Smith, “are you sure we’ve got the right people on board?” The strategy meeting had lasted for hours and Livingston was very happy with the result but his colleague had a point – they’d still have to think about the right team for the turnaround.

Riccardo Monteverdi looks out of the window and at the factory hall from which his employees are streaming out into the Christmas season festivities. For him, the holidays will be a time to take decisions. There will definitely be intense discussions in his house again but the basic situation remains unchanged: none of his children will take over running the business when he steps down from his own company after over 30 years. It’s time to decide on a successor and it has to be someone from the staff; this much is clear to him. His people would never accept a manager “from outside” and he also feels more secure with the idea of putting his life’s work into the hands of a trusted employee. However, who could come to mind for this task?

Now she had it in black and white: sales had continually fallen over the past few months. But the market environment hadn’t changed and the busiest time of the year in their business had only just begun. Livia Pettersson didn’t understand what was happening. She had definitely noticed the recent bad mood among the sales reps but she had chalked this up to the departure of two long-serving and respected employees. Now, she wasn’t sure whether the notices handed in weren’t more the result of the ill-feeling that actually had other causes. One thing was certain: she had to act quickly and needed to address the executives. They had the greatest overview and sufficient scope to influence the implementation of short-term measures as soon as the underlying problem had been identified. Pettersson had to find out what the reasons for the difficulties were in their opinion and to what extent they were capable and willing to actively cooperate in making changes.

Perhaps you recognize one or two of these situations or one of the following scenarios:
– You have to make a specific HR decision and would like to know which manager best meets the requirements for the special position
– You are not sure whether your current management team can master the upcoming challenges
– You want to find out in which places the company could be strengthened by additional talent from outside
– You want to get an overview of the management in a new company and understand developed structures
– You suspect there are problems in processes and in cooperation within a department or between different divisions
– You are planning larger-scale changes in the company or have just implemented them
– Within the scope of short and medium-term succession planning, you ask yourself whether there is sufficient talent available in the pipeline
–You would like to systematically further develop your employees and want to know who actually has hidden potential in your organization

For us, all these cases have one thing in common – an objective external perspective would ensure more clarity! A professionally conducted management appraisal

– building upon intensive, focused, appreciative, competency-based, behaviour-oriented, semi-structured interviews
– optionally supplemented by presentations, case studies, simulations, role plays and psychometric instruments and/or multi-rater feedback

can form the basis for change processes and development measures as well as provide important information for upcoming decisions in the company.

Your benefits:
– Transparency concerning current and future high performers
– Reality check for a planned strategy
•    can it be implemented with the existing management team?
•    should individual team members or the team as a whole be developed?
•    does additional talent have to be obtained from outside?
– Objective executive assessments and a neutral, unpolitical process ensure greater acceptance of far-reaching (HR) decisions
– Possible indication of comprehensive organization and management problems
– Initiating or intensifying the exchange between the management and employees and providing an impulse for changed corporate and management culture
– Accelerating change processes/restructuring/integrations

What is important here:
– Client and consultant clarify their expectations in advance of the management appraisal and set a clear target
– Ideally, appraisals should be carried out by a team where the consultants use the same interview techniques but have  a complementary professional background (e.g., chemists with industrial experience + psychologists with coaching training)
– Appraisal interviews take place at a location offering a free discussion atmosphere for all participants
– Open, appreciative and development-oriented attitude in the appraisal is the decisive aspect for achieving authentic and sound results
– Findings from the appraisal interview and any other exercises are presented in a detailed report written by one of the participating interviewers in a format precisely adjusted to the client’s needs
– There is at least one feedback meeting with each candidate on the results of their appraisal as a conclusion to the process and an opportunity to clarify any questions; this increases acceptance of the procedure and its results as well as any measures derived from the procedure
– The companies that gain the most from a management appraisal are those that integrate the instrument as a long-term, fixed component of their talent management

RSVP Leadership Services will provide you with flexible and uncomplicated advice to develop a management appraisal concept specifically tailored to your company’s requirements. We will support you in preparing and carrying out the appraisal process as well as further measures building upon the results and following them up. If you are interested in expert exchanges of ideas on the issue of management appraisal, get in touch with us!

The RSVP Group is a leading HR consulting company for the life sciences industry and adjacent sectors. Our clients are global market leaders in the pharmaceutical, chemicals, healthcare, medical technology and biotechnology industries. Our success is based on long-term and trusting client relationships and deep knowledge of the market and sectors. With offices in Wiesbaden, Zurich, London, New York, Princeton, Singapore and Shanghai, we have a strong international focus. With around 50 employees, we offer our clients a broad spectrum of services and solutions regarding executive search and staff development.
More Information
Ulrike Mészáros
T +49 611 335599 0

F +49 611 335599 11
Mobile +49 175 241 9452

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08.11.2016 | Talent Management and Succession Planning
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Talent Management and Succession Planning

Against the background of rising employee participation, increasing digitalization and cross-generation cooperation, it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies worldwide to bring business requirements into harmony with employee needs.

In a study carried out by the software provider Lumesse (Global HR Trends Survey Report 2015 – Mastering the Storm), 86% of HR managers in the pharmaceutical/health care sector confirmed that this pressure was increasing in their organisations. In addition, it was also shown that what previously applied to labour intensive sectors and service providers is now the rule for all companies. They are becoming “people businesses” whose success is largely influenced by the abilities and leadership of the employees. Therefore, it will also be all the more important to acquire talent in the future and to be able to gain loyalty long term. 94% of those surveyed are experiencing more urgency in identifying and developing future managers and just 38% are convinced that their organisation is currently deploying the right talent and managers in the right places in order to drive business success further forward and secure it in the long term. Moreover, 78% of those surveyed in pharmaceuticals/health care fear they will lose essential, talented people to the competition or to other sectors. Thus, effective talent management will become a critical success factor and represents a form of risk management to which no company should close its eyes.

Ideally, talent management is applied as an integrated process accompanying strategy. It encompasses all measures to acquire, deploy, retain and develop internal and external talent and maintain contact with former employees in key positions. Alongside careful planning and implementing the corresponding actions, regularly evaluating these measures is of great importance, as is a clear statement by and the commitment of top management: talent management is a matter for the boss!

While classic talent management concentrated on the few “best” employees in the company, i.e., the top performers and those with high potential, newer resource-oriented approaches demand the continual development of all employees in order to make their reserves of expertise usable for the company in the long term as well. The most future-oriented path consists of a combination of highly targeted, intensive support measures for those with high potential and broader development programs open to all employees.

In order to plan suitable development measures and to be able to set the right course as a process designer and manager, it is essential that HR is included early in corporate strategy planning. Due to the fact that in the course of current and upcoming changes, such as those caused by “Industry 4.0”, around two thirds of those surveyed in the Lumesse investigation said they could not accurately forecast what type of employees and abilities will be needed in the company medium term.

All managers in the company should assume responsibility for its sustainability and gain a common understanding of the talent situation for this purpose. Managers at all levels should be obliged to look for talent in their own employees and act as personal developers for these people. Staff development is a management function and should also be recognized and supported as such. According to a study carried out by the management consultancy Towers Watson (The 2014 Global Talent Management and Rewards Study), only 33% of employers attest effective conduct promoting talent to their managers.

Attention has to be paid to some points when identifying the talent to be developed: for example, a clear differentiation has to be made between ambition and ability. Some employees have high potential but are not particularly ambitious. Others are so ambitious that they produce top performances, however, sometimes, at the cost of their employees and colleagues.

The right mix of specialist knowledge, personality and variety is decisive, especially for the future management team. If the “wrong” candidates are taken into the talent pool and supported, this sends misleading signals to the rest of the staff and can lead to considerable declines in motivation. Furthermore, every selection process inevitably also creates “losers”. The way candidates that are not selected are dealt with has to be well thought through in advance in order to counter collapses in performance and motivation that may lead to employees giving notice through suitable counter-measures taken in good time.

When selecting and shaping development measures, ideally, efforts should be made to link corporate targets with the wishes and targets of the individual. What is optimal is support that is as broad as possible “on the job” in various functional areas, projects, locations, etc. supplemented by short training courses and workshops. In the process, transparency and regular, serious exchanges with those supported are decisive: every employee should be included in planning their next career steps and also be made responsible for their own further development with their superior as a supporter and HR as an advisor and process manager. It is essential to reward initiative and measures should be followed up with individual feedback. Here, constructive criticism prevents those with talent from “taking off” and viewing their future career as a sure-fire success.

In order to take employees’ different targets and abilities into account, various career path concepts make sense in that, for example, the possibility of a management, specialist or project career path is offered in the company. In order to offer employees and the company a greater breadth of alternatives, both these concepts and the corporate culture should provide changing to positions at the same or even lower levels as an adequate option. The Towers Watson investigation shows that only 43% of companies have defined vertical career paths and barely 27% also horizontal career paths in their organisations.

At this point, we would like to go into the issue of succession planning as a special case in talent management. Strategic succession management helps limit the costs of vacancies occurring in important positions, meets the challenges of demographic change, secures knowledge in the company for the long term and retains current employees with well thought out career path planning and creates incentives for potential new employees. Career prospects are a key motivation for candidates to join a company. In turn, a lack of promotion opportunities is one of the main reasons why employees leave.

Successful succession planning is divided into three continually repeating phases:
– Identifying succession needs
– Selection process + individual development plans
– Taking on the job + onboarding

In the preparatory phase, succession needs are identified and a rough road map is set. For this purpose, the employee competences needed in future are derived from the corporate strategy and, if necessary, any new positions that have to be created are defined. Existing key positions in the company are identified and foreseeable vacancies in such positions are given time priority, also in coordination with the strategic orientation. Moreover, the number of employees available over all, at the matching level, is set per department and the risk of known top performers and high potential employees leaving the company is assessed. A profile of requirements is drawn up for all positions on which the selection of successor candidates should be oriented.

The implementation phase begins with the selection process for potential successors for defined key positions. This encompasses nominating and assessing the candidates and continues with the further qualification of the selected successor candidates through individual development plans. This also includes special retention measures for talented employees at risk of leaving.

The process ends with the designated successor actually taking over the position and the systematic transfer of knowledge by the previous job holder. This step should be accompanied by supporting measures such as moderated handover meetings or onboarding/coaching for the newcomer. It is essential that concrete career path planning is also continued for the candidates for whom there is no possibility of succeeding a key position in the short to medium term.

All succession planning should be regularly reviewed for consistent orientation on the corporate strategy and adjusted if necessary.

HM Long RSVP Group Leadership Services AG is a management consultancy that specialises in selecting and developing suitable management personnel. We provide flexible and straightforward advice in developing a concept tailored to your company for strategic and sustainable talent management. We will support you in concrete succession planning as well as in preparing and conducting appropriate measures. If you are interested in an expert exchange of views on the issue of talent management, contact us.

HM Long RSVP Group AG is a leading HR consulting company for the Life Sciences industry and adjacent sectors. Our clients are global market leaders in the pharmaceutical, chemical, health care, medical technology and biotechnology sectors. Our success is based on client relationships based on trust over many years and on deep knowledge of the market and sectors. With offices in Wiesbaden, Munich, Berlin, Zürich, London, New York, Washington, D.C., Princeton, Boston, Austin, Singapore and Shanghai, we have a strong international focus. With around 50 employees, we offer our clients a broad spectrum of services and solutions concerning executive search and staff development.
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Ulrike Mészáros
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