Category Archives: Leadership

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How to Preserve Institutional Knowledge and Prevent Brain Drain

Brain drain is a situation where organizations are faced with older staff leaving and retiring at a faster rate than new employees reach equivalent levels of skill and expertise. This can be a problem in organizations of all sizes.

While especially relevant to fast-scaling startups who often outpace their own ability to onboard effectively, brain drain impacts even massive companies with tens of thousands of employees.

Preventing knowledge loss often means creating preventive strategies, effectively onboarding people, and hiring to incorporate new expertise while retaining existing knowledge.

These tactics will help you preserve institutional knowledge across your organization, so that the workforce remains productive, valuable, and capable of delivering on strategy and vision.

Implement Succession Planning

Succession planning is one of the most valuable strategies to prevent brain drain, because it ensures you always know who will take the place of existing skilled or valuable persons. This often means developing a matrix to highlight your most value-added or key employees, using competency frameworks and job profiling to determine why they add value and how to replace them, and then generating succession planning based on predictions of their likelihood of leaving the role within x amount of time.

This strategy approaches brain drain from the idea that it will happen, you have to plan for it, and you have to have people ready with the right knowledge, skills, and behaviors, to prevent drops in performance when key people do leave.

Create Mentoring Programs

Lack of proper onboarding is very common in new and old companies alike. Here, new people are often hired on, very quickly introduced to their roles, and then left to be productive under a manager or Scrum leader with no real follow-up or intensive mentoring.

When more experienced individuals do leave roles, these new people are left with very little idea of how or why things are done the way they are, no idea of backlogs, and no real way to add value without changing processes, reverting items, or making a lot of mistakes.

Introducing mentoring programs as part of onboarding helps subvert this issue by ensuring existing employees always pass their knowledge, documentation, and organizational insight on to new people. While most people don’t want to make time in their role for mentoring, it is an important part of a role. The faster you’re hiring, the more time experienced people should be making for mentoring.

Focus on Employee Retention

While replacement strategies are important, employee turnover is still one of the most crucial contributors to skill loss. If you slow down how quickly employees leave, you slow down brain drain, giving your other strategies more time to take effect.

Here, you should focus on employee satisfaction, employee empowerment, fitting individuals to their roles and teams, and creating an environment people want to work in. While you’ll always have individuals who don’t fit, employee retention will make it easier to reduce losses in other places throughout the organization.

Brain drain will slow productivity, decrease profit, and force the organization to change direction or focus as individuals with crucial knowledge leave an organization. Adopt strategies to share knowledge throughout the organization to prevent losing key employees as quickly, and have a plan in place to replace key individuals when they’re ready to move on.


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Using Employee Assessment for Succession and Development

Employee assessments are typically performed on prospective candidates, during annual performance review, and any time when additional assessment is called for. Assessment can offer organizations valuable input with which to make decisions regarding recruitment, salary, bonuses, and retaining individuals.

Employee assessment is also more often used for applications including personal development and succession planning. These applications enable organizations to utilize existing data for investment, providing they have the structures in place to map how assessment results relate to future roles and capabilities.

Using Job Profiles

Job profiling is the process of mapping required behaviors, competencies, skills, and personality to success in a role. Creating job profile frameworks, typically with the support of a competency framework, allows you to see specific factors such as behavior and personality that contribute to performance in a role.

Most organizations achieve these frameworks with an “out of the box” solution in a framework designed on industry averages, which is then updated and tweaked across the organization to reflect unique role requirements in the organization. This second step is typically achieved through a combination of interviewing, reviewing performance results, and discussing job requirements with teams and people around the role.

Mapping Assessment Results to Job Profiles

Job profiles list a series of behaviors, actions, and skills that contribute to performance in a role. You can easily graph these results out, and then simply match individuals with similar results to see who matches required traits. Here, it’s more important to pay attention to soft skills such as behavior and personality, which are more difficult to train.

Importantly several types of people can often succeed (and to the same degree) in a single role. Your job profiles should encompass what success looks like and why that is success, so that you can look for it in others.

Using Gap Analysis to Determine Development Direction

Employee assessments in hiring are most-often used to directly match individuals to required or wanted behaviors and traits but some of those skills will be missing. A gap analysis can help you determine what and where candidates need to improve. If you’re planning succession and development, you should be significantly more concerned with personality and behavior traits such as personal motivation, emotional intelligence, etc. These traits are difficult to train but greatly impact leadership and creative roles. If someone shows great promise in areas that contribute to a role but are not necessarily hard skills, you can flag them for further development.

This process should always involve:

  • Analyze what’s missing from the profile to completely fill out the role
  • Discuss options with candidates and determine motivation and interest
  • Offer development opportunities in line with the role
  • Offer coaching or mentoring in-line with the role
  • Monitor progress and continue to map personality to job profiles

For example, if someone’s assessment profile maps to success in a role such as branch director but they lack key skills and don’t have the broad range of experience necessary to make good decisions. Here, it would be a relatively simple decision to set aside room for personal development, to broaden their experience with assignments in other departments or branches, and to assign them a mentor or coach who could help bridge gaps relating to personal development.

Internal development can save time and resources over sourcing leaders and technical experts externally. Managing internal succession planning and development also allows you to better select the desired traits and personalities of individuals promoted into roles, allows you to control their work culture, and gives you more room to choose, because having internal people ready doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t still hire externally.


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5 Competencies to Test for When Hiring or Developing Leaders

Competency frameworks allow you to define which behaviors and characteristics contribute to the success of a role. While the unique position and organization will contribute to those vital competencies, there is often overlap in the skills someone needs to be a good leader. Those can typically be discovered through job profiling, testing, and leadership training.

These 5 competencies are often invaluable in leaders, because they impact how individuals approach others, approach their role, and how they can take charge. You will, of course, have to add your own competencies based on the specific role and its parameters when hiring or developing for that role.

Social Intelligence

Social intelligence is often seen as one of the best indicators of a good leader. It covers how individuals recognize, cope with, and perform in various social situations. It explains how an individual will react and behave in social situations with different dynamics. A highly socially intelligent person will be able to recognize, respond, and react to a great deal of social situations, remain sensitive to different social issues, and perform well and with empathy towards others.

This impacts leadership because a good leader must change their approach and leadership style based on the situation.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence defines how an individual recognizes, responds to, and controls their own emotions and how they respond in interpersonal relationships. EQ is crucial in leaders because it impacts how they react to others, what they prioritize, and why. An emotionally intelligent leader can build relationships and trust, build loyalty, and respond empathetically to individuals in his or her team. This will improve the quality of leadership, improve individual job satisfaction, and likely reduce turnover over having leaders without it.

Adaptability

Whether testing specifically for adaptability or for a broader competency such as agility, soft-skills like adaptability are crucial for leaders. This is true whether you are either moving someone up into a new role or bringing someone in from outside your organization, as leaders must adapt to new roles and new responsibilities.

As outlined by Ram Charan’s Leadership Pipeline, an individual moving into a leadership position from a technical role must adapt to helping others complete work. A leader moving from managing a team to managing a department must adapt from helping others complete work to strategizing long-term goals.

Adaptability is therefore an extremely crucial soft-skill for a leader, because it defines whether they’ll be able to make the shift from their current job responsibilities to a completely new set.

Ethical and Moral Standards

While ethical and moral standards typically comprise several competencies, leaders consistently agree that having these standards is one of the most important things for success. Strong ethical and moral standards allow an individual to perform well in settings where they are responsible for mitigating risk, protecting assets, and building trust with their teams. Doing so is impossible without a strong ethical and moral code in place.

Self-Organizing

Leaders must be able to self-organize and self-direct if they are to perform in any capacity at all. This means that any candidate for any level of leadership must show strong motivation and self-direction. If they cannot motivate themselves or do not show a strong tendency towards self-development, learning, and organization, they likely cannot succeed in an autonomous leadership position.

Leaders exist in numerous roles and at different levels of organization. A leader might refer to an individual who guides a few people in a team or someone who drives business strategy and structure. This will impact what and who you are looking for. However, nearly every leader needs these 5 competencies to succeed in a role that involves guiding others.


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Top HR Books to Read This Year

Whether you’re working to improve yourself and your approach to HR, looking for ideas to implement into HR practices in your organization, or want to learn more about your industry, reading is an excellent way to do it.

Human Resources is an incredibly popular subject, with thousands of books published year on using data and analytics to manage people, on best practices for people and team management or setup, on emotional intelligence and leadership development, and even on technical tasks such as payroll, process management, and so on. Choosing a few to read can be daunting.

These top HR books to read this year will get you started with a selection that offers balance, a broad range of ideas, and information behind some of the most popular ideas in HR today.

The Leadership Pipeline

Ram Charan’s Leadership Pipeline was published in 2000 and has since become a classic in leadership management and development. The book outlines a framework for developing leaders internally, giving HR the tools to recognize and develop leaders for different levels of organizational leadership. Rather than taking a hierarchical approach, authors Charan and Drotter discuss the need for shifting responsibilities, changing approaches to work, and a diverse range of experience for leaders and how each of those requirements change as an individual moves to the next step in the leadership pipeline.

Stephen Drotter’s “The Performance Pipeline” is nearly as famous, although it doesn’t have the impact or the following of the original book. Drotter’s book shifts attention away from requirements to lead and towards performance management for leaders, which is equally as valuable.

The Power of People

The Power of People was published in 2017 by Jonathan Ferrar, Sheri Feinzig, and Nigel Guenole. The book approaches human resources from the angle of workforce analytics, taking examples from recent and long-term successes in the field. With case studies, The Power of People has a strong focus on giving good examples while introducing readers to the field, and introducing best-practices to help individuals improve the performance of their own workforce analytics.

The Power of People also heavily leans into a business-first approach, outlining strategy as first-and-foremost as a tool with which to achieve business goals. Most importantly, the book offers enough in terms of basic framework to help new HR analytics managers to get started, while providing enough tools, examples, best practices, and mistakes to watch out for to offer value to those experienced in the role.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ

Emotional Intelligence was first published in 1995 by Daniel Goleman, but the book has not lost its relevance. Instead, it’s become one of the hottest topics of the year, with even top companies like Google and Microsoft working to integrate it into their everyday business practices and leadership. While Emotional Intelligence doesn’t go into detail about how EQ specifically impacts leaders or the workplace, follow-up books do. This seminal work instead explains the foundations of EQ, factors that impact it, and how EQ greatly impacts the way that people are able to form relationships, communicate, and work together.

Each of these three books will offer insight into people, workplaces, and leadership, which can greatly impact how and why you make HR decisions. Most importantly, they influence a great deal of modern HR thought and decision-making.


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