Groom tomorrow’s leaders today

By Brent Ross, CPA

108791935As baby boomers retire, employers will have jobs to fill, including senior management positions.

Grooming talent will be imperative in transitioning your company’s leadership, given that more than 65 percent of senior managers hired externally fail within 18 months, according to the Center for Creative Leadership.

That’s not to say that the remaining 35 percent cannot become your future leaders, but whether it’s poor chemistry, insufficient skills, inadequate knowledge or other shortcomings, most externally hired senior managers do not stick.

Combining the use of assessment tools with employee-focused management can help you avoid costly mistakes in hiring and promoting, while bolstering your chances of long-term success by ensuring that future leaders are well suited to their jobs.

This deliberate, dual approach is particularly useful for recruiting and developing younger workers who seek different forms of fulfillment than the boomers that they will replace. Millennials value flexible schedules, meaningful work and opportunities to grow.

Harrison Assessments North America, espouses the “DESP” model as a means of matching employees and leaders to jobs and responsibilities, so as to improve your chances of successfully hiring and/or promoting talent. The four pillars of “DESP” are:

Decisions. When creating your succession planning strategy, decide whether it will be restricted to high-potential candidates or encompass all employees. And answer questions such as, “Will career planning be integrated in the process?”, “Will the approach be integrated with external recruiting capabilities or be restricted to internal talent?”, and “What documented goals will be established?”

Eligibility. Consider eligibility factors such as experience, certifications and education level, and rank their importance based upon their relevancy to the position that you must fill. Then determine whether an employee would be “eligible” using those criteria.

Suitability. This is where a formal assessment tool is particularly useful. Use one to gauge a candidate’s suitability for a position in terms of intangibles like motivation, attitudes, interests, and values.

Performance. You’ve heard it before, “past results are not necessarily indicative of future performance,” or something to that effect. Yet evaluating a candidate’s past performance is essential. Harrison Assessments recommends considering factors like whether a candidate has demonstrated strong operational performance in various areas, and if they have taken initiative and displayed strong leadership competency.

Properly implemented and communicated, the “DESP” model provides employees direction as to what future opportunities may be available to them, and shows them how they can prepare to assume those responsibilities. Your employees will be engaged and motivated as a result, which again is essential in attracting, developing and retaining the millennials that you may need to succeed retiring boomers.

Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, has found that 45 percent of companies experience high turnover for millennials—by a 2:1 margin compared to older generations. Thirty percent of companies lost 15 percent or more of their millennial employees in the past year, according to the results of a 2013 survey by Millennial Branding and, The Career Network.

Most of the human resource professionals surveyed indicated that a “good cultural fit” is the main reason that millennials stay, while a better offer from another company (30 percent), their career goals aren’t aligned to their company (27 percent) and a lack of career opportunities (13 percent) are the main reasons they leave, according to Millennial Branding and

Here are some suggestions for recruiting and retaining millennials from CareerShift, a job hunting and career management service.

  • Keep your promises. You’re more likely to secure a “good cultural fit” when you convey your company’s culture and communicate your expectations for the job that the employee will fill before they start.
  • Be flexible. Forty-five percent of millennial employees would pick workplace flexibility rather than pay, according to CareerShift. Allow employees to work from home occasionally, adjust their schedules or make other accommodations that let them maintain work-life balance.
  • Help them grow. Challenge millennials with new projects and responsibilities so that they can improve their skills and advance their careers.
  • Show you care. Take a genuine interest in employees’ well-being and collaborate on their development. They will reward your commitment with their loyalty.
  • Ask, “Why?” Accept that you may still lose good employees. Use post-exit interviews or surveys to find out why they left. It may be too late to keep them but their feedback could help you improve your recruitment and retention strategies.

Even if it may be years until you and your senior leadership retire, it is not too soon to starting developing successors. Millennials in particular will appreciate the chance to enhance their skills in the meantime so that they are ready when their time comes—to lead your company, not another.

04-picBrent Ross, CPA, CPEC, CFE, is a managing member of Ross Hughes & Associates, CPAs, PLLC. Brent is an uncommon accounting advisor, working with clients beyond just their tax and accounting issues. He focuses on how to improve profitability by creating an engaged workforce, whose members are passionate about their customers and working on a high performing team. He is a distributor of Harrison Assessments Talent Solutions and Wiley (Inscape) Publishing Company employee assessments. He can be reached at 904-641.6288 or

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