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Without Historical Performance Data, How Does Our Newly Merged Company Know Which Employees Are Management Material?

January 25, 2013

Dear Data Blackout:

If you're scratching your head about whom to consider for first-time management roles, then consider yourself in good company. Most organizations struggle to identify which individuals to interview for these critical positions.

Many are even worse at picking them: Only 31 percent of human resources leaders in DDI's Global Leadership Forecast study rated their leadership selection system as effective. This recent study also found that 37 percent of external leadership hires and 28 percent of internal leadership promotions flat out fail. Many more newly minted leaders just barely tread water for their first couple of years until they learn how to swim.

Why does this happen? All too often organizations automatically look to their best technical or financial experts—the best sales person or best production operator—as the one-stop shop for frontline management. Don't get me wrong: You don't want to promote a low performer into a managerial role. However, in-role technical performance should only be considered as a ticket to the dance. In your situation, in which you have limited historical data on performance, it is important to determine who should receive your dance tickets. A good starting place is to ask the managers to nominate their star performers for consideration.

In reality, you will need to understand and evaluate not only technical performance, but also the behavioral leadership competencies (i.e., planning and organizing, coaching, decision-making) and personal attributes (i.e., motivation, results orientation, leadership disposition) that lead to success as a manager in your organization. Unfortunately, DDI assessment data from over 9,000 frontline leaders has shown that technical experts overwhelmingly need development in key behavioral competencies—the most common being guiding interactions (88 percent), coaching for improvement (69 percent), and delegation (68 percent).

To help you find the right skills, competencies and attributes, select a combination of assessments to help you identify whom to consider, and ultimately promote, into a first-time managerial role. (Note: This can be challenging as well. Our search for "frontline leader assessment" turns up 13.3 million pages on Google).

You should keep two things in mind when putting together a selection process for identifying "ready-now" managers in your organization:

  • Coverage. Your selection process needs to cover every aspect of the knowledge, experience, competencies and personal attributes required for success as a manager in your company. If it's critical to success in the role, you need to measure it.
  • Accuracy. Assessments and interviews don't do you a bit of good if they don't predict what they are supposed to measure. Make sure to choose highly accurate tests and assessments (with a reliable track record) and train your interviewers to ask the right questions to uncover past behavior that is relevant to your critical managerial competencies.

Finally, here's one last word of advice. An organization like yours—a manufacturing facility that has just completed a merger—needs to take a really close look at your potential legal risk. If your industry or company has a history of adverse impact or legal challenges, you should really consider conducting a formal job analysis of your managerial positions and validating your selection processes against the resulting competency models.

SOURCE: Bradford Thomas, Manager, Selection Solutions Group, Development Dimensions International, Inc., Pittsburgh, January 9, 2013

LEARN MORE: Please read How to Build a Performance Management Program for further insight on setting competencies and expectations. Also of interest: Well-Planned Managers Curb Attrition.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.