On Borrowed Time
On Borrowed Time - Navigating 2021
by Teri J. Traaen, Ed.D., D.P.A.
CEO Traaen & Associates, LLC

Decisions made now are more compelling than ever.  As we work to support many different types of organizations across all industries, there are two compelling questions that are surfacing in most of these conversations.  These include, ‘How will we prepare our current workforce for what lies ahead?’ and ‘How will we ensure that inclusion drives our daily decisions?’  While these questions may seem parallel in context, in fact they are complementary in nature.  This is manifest in questions about internal promotions allegedly guaranteed for current members of the workforce as the common occurrence.  Should current members of your organization’s workforce be given first priority in terms of consideration for all promotional pathways?  Does this ensure diversity, opportunity and inclusion, at least within the organization, as it exists today? If it is contrary to potential review of internal policies supporting diversity and equity, what are the logical steps to confirm a different (guaranteed) outcome?

Some organizations have suggested to us the belief that with a much greater focus on ‘how’ current (and potential future) employees are treated, that they are in fact on borrowed time before potential litigation finds its way to their doorstep.  In some cases, this is creating extreme discomfort at all organizational levels.  In other situations, organizations are steadfast in their belief that ‘preferential’ treatment – regardless of how it might be practiced – is justified and can be defended.

We are in a time of extreme concern – some warranted and some not justified.  Is your organization routinely/annually reviewing the methods used for decision making in relationship to how all members of your workforce are treated?  Do you have a comprehensive and internal succession planning effort that is transparent?  If yes, does this succession planning framework include opening opportunities for all interested employees based upon their skills and current roles within the organization?  Does entry into internal academies for skills development  require supervisory support and/or hard metrics based upon equitable standards?  Where is your organization vulnerable in terms of talent acquisition and management? 

We have options in all decision processes that impact our workforce.  If we default to political parameters, community demands, individual expectations as influence on these processes, in the end who wins?  And more importantly who is harmed?  Time is not on the side of organization’s that do nothing.  Take action. Consider authentically where your organization is in terms of transparent decision making and the consequences of every action being taken.

The Path to Peace
by Teri J. Traaen, Ed.D., D.P.A.
CEO Traaen & Associates, LLC

Relationships drive change.  Contentious relationships often provide for the most profound change imaginable.  Or the permanent end to any hope for co-existence, much less collaboration and success for all parties.  Is there a tool to shift conflict based interactions in the workplace to something that allows for constructive discord and eventual positive collaboration?  

The most profound tool is self-acknowledgement of what drives each of us to ‘react’.  These identified reactions are often referred to as ‘triggers’.  The real or implied action of others can be enough to trip a profound and overtly displayed reaction on our part or on the part of your organization (of course prompted by the designated team members provided with the ability to take action via the delegated power of their job title.)

What if an organization intends to redefine all relationships in order to move to greater success and accomplishment of its business goals during 2021 and beyond?  In some cases, this might be the first time in an organization’s extensive history that it has demonstrated any concern about its reputation, how it impacts individuals and whether it can or should continue on its current path.  

We often have organizations ask us how to launch a turnaround in order to chart and sustain a new path for service, when overcoming significant and indefensible past actions.  Relationships drive change – not only for the moment  - but more importantly for the history that your future workforce will have to continue to overcome when memories remain of past actions.  The most critical focus must be on a combination of trust and authentic actions by all key individuals.  In other words, own the past.  Explain what happened that resulted in the outcomes that have come to be not what anyone wanted. Then talk openly about what you hope will be the legacy of the turnaround for all involved.  Then take action - consistently and with honor in all situations.

We learn from the realities of conflict.  We suffer – we re-consider – we make the decision to act differently.  Hopefully permanently.
Diversifying Your Succession Planning
by Sarah Stewart, M.A.

How does your organization approach succession planning? Whether it's through ad-hoc discussions when a manager realises there's a retention issue, or you have clearly identified critical roles and potential candidates at varying levels of readiness to ensure a smooth transition, one of the most challenging aspects to succession planning can be ensuring your diversity efforts are fully embedded into your planning and the future proofing of your organization.

For many of us, diversity of our owrkforce, particularly at more senior levels, is still a 'work in progress'. So how can we approach succession planning in a way that doesn't maintain the status quo? Below are a few suggestions that can bring the lense of D&I to your succession planning and discussions:

  • Flexibility - 2020 was a reminder that sometimes events take a different turn from what we were expecting. Organizations have seen a tremendous amount of change in a short period. Where does that leave your succession planning? You may have the ideal candidate who has been developed and groomed specifically to take over a high profile role within your organization. But what if the demands of the role have changed? Now is an ideal opportunity to ensure your succession plans are fit for the organization of the future, and not the organization of yesteryear. By considering the future demands of the role rather than the historic demands, you can start to build some flexibility into your succession planning, while taking the opportunity to revisit whether your talent pipeline is as diverse as possible, even expanding the pool of potential successors to include external candidates if necessary.

  • Succession Planning as part of your employee development program - Succession planning can all too often become a tick box exercise. You've assessed the available talent and identified a couple of individual's who could fill your role if required. What now? Do you tuck that away in a file until next year? Or do you work with those individuals to ensure their inclusion on the succession plan is aligned with their career aspirations, and if so, put in place a development plan to ensure they're ready when the time comes. By linking your succession planning to employee development you create the opportunity to overcome traditional barriers to career advancement and broaden the diversity of your talent pool when it comes to filling your critical roles.

  • Transparency - Managers are sometimes reluctant to openly discuss succession planning with employees for fear of being accused of 'pre-selection'. In many ways this severely limits the value of your succession planning to the business. Open, transparent discussions with employees about future potential roles ensures alignment between individual career aspirations and organisational planning, and removes the 'mystery' of how to land a critical role within your organization. For many organisations diversity is still a challenge in critical roles. Starting career development discussions early with an eye on future talent pools for your critical roles is one way we can start to open up opportunities to a wider group of individuals, and ensure everyone interested in progressing their career within our organization has a clear understanding of what is required to be considered for your critical roles.

Succession planning may not feel like a priority after the year we've just come out of, but there hasn't been a better opportunity to revisit your plans with a new, post pandemic perspective, and to take this opportunity to ensure your succession planning is enhancing and not disregarding your D&I efforts across other areas of your HR program.

Sarah Stewart, M.A.
U.K. based service provider for Traaen & Associates LLC
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