Your boardroom may be doing a great job right now, but what happens when staff leave? MaryLou Costa asks an expert panel for their views on succession management and training.
Marketing Week (MW): Should marketers focus on training to become better marketers, or seek development to prepare them for more senior roles?
Michelle Keaney (MK): Heineken’s approach to development is the 70-20-10 rule – 70% of your time should be on-the-job development, where you might shadow people from other functions, and that’s something that could prepare you to become CEO; 20% should be on coaching and networking; and 10% should be formal training.
Dee Dutta (DD): You have to invest in yourself to perform better in your current role before you even think about promotion. That was one of the reasons I got involved with the Marketing Academy. And then there comes a time when you have to decide if you want to move into general management or stay in marketing. I know of marketers who have gone on to head up HR.
Malcolm Roughead (MR): By developing skills across the board, marketers will be in a better position to be considered for senior roles. Very often the choice is down to whether they want to be a specialist in one discipline or balance that expertise with a rounded set of skills.
Rosalind Walker (RW): We want marketers at Unilever to develop their skills and talent as they move through the business, but at the same time there are different general skills we want them to develop so they can move into more senior roles.
MW: What kind of training is available for marketers to develop in their own discipline, and what have you benefited from?
Andrew Warner (AW): It is essential to not just consider formal training. I have learned a great deal from speaking to and listening to more senior marketers. One resource that is often under-used is the agency team, which may have ongoing client training programmes. Similarly, Google and Microsoft regularly hold sessions that are of a high standard.
I have done courses from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and Institute of Direct Marketing and was also lucky enough to get a sponsored place at Kellogg Business School in Chicago. More recently I have been attending a select number of networking events and industry forums, such as the Marketing Society President’s Digital Circle.
MK: I have been part of the Marketing Academy. Professionally, the CIM and the Marketing Society offer good marketing training and they are quite different. The CIM certificate is focused on development as a senior manager and acting at board level – understanding financials and the true implication of what you do as a function.
DD: Doing an MBA helped transform me from a “marcoms” marketer to being able to understand the bigger picture of business. More marketers should consider more formal training, because the discipline is changing from being purely marketing and communications to being responsible for delivering ROI and shareholder value and driving the business agenda.
RW: Almost all our training is done internally. It is created by us for us to give us a competitive advantage. For example, we have the Unilever Leadership Development programme, which all our senior leaders have been on. We also have another programme focused on how our leaders can help develop talent within their teams and a graduate programme, which is a year of workshops, online modules and assignments.
MW: What kind of training is available for marketers to develop into senior management roles and have you benefited from this?
DD: Leadership training is a big part of the transition from marketer to a position such as CEO. These are very much in-house programmes delivered by companies. At Sony Ericsson we had a leadership development programme that marketing worked with HR to create.
MK: I would bring coaching into this. What prevents marketers moving into senior roles within a business is never a lack of skills, it’s demonstrating the right behaviour. A coach can teach you what behaviour your business values and how you can develop such behaviour. Leadership development programmes are also available – Heineken offers one internally.
MR: Visit Scotland has programmes for broader development and where appropriate they include mentoring. We also encourage individuals to get involved in community projects.
AW: The Marketing Society, in partnership with Brand Learning, offers an excellent marketing leaders programme which helps high potential marketers evolve into the next generation of CMOs. I have also found executive coaching helps to bridge the gap between being a skilled marketer and being a business leader.
MW: How responsible are you and your colleagues for ensuring that your role would be adequately filled on your departure?
MK: The responsibility is balanced between me and HR. In most companies it is an official process; you could point out that someone should be considered for a role and send that reference to HR and let them take it from there.
DD: When I left Sony Ericsson there was a clear succession plan for me. I identified my successor three years into my job. I actually had my eye on three people so that I would still have a successor in case someone left or didn’t perform.
Part of your role as the leader of a marketing function should be to ask: who is going to be able to take over from me? In some organisations the gap between the top and the person at the next level is so big that if a leader was hit by the proverbial bus there wouldn’t be anybody to take over. That is a failure of the organisation.
MR: We have a succession management programme at Visit Scotland that looks at all levels across the whole business. Every six months we review progress and refresh the process.
AW: Expedia has a dynamic structure that constantly adapts to market and business requirements. We do not plan succession for senior roles in their current form, as those positions may change at any time. I aim to build the skills that will help individuals move to roles with more responsibility rather than to succeed specific positions.
RW: It’s a combined responsibility rather than an individual’s. It also depends a lot on how senior the position is; if the role is at vice-president level, then we have a group of senior and executive vice-presidents who meet twice a year to look at our succession plans, their strength around key jobs and to identify the key people.
We have moved away from a process where we would try and succession plan every single vice-president job in the company, which would be about 80 jobs across marketing in Unilever. We now look at which of those are the really important roles in terms of business results – probably about 25% – and work hard to ensure we have strong succession planning for those.
MW: Are junior staff in your company trained with a view to one day taking on senior management roles?
MK: Our junior staff are encouraged to experience as many facets of the business as possible. Everybody has two reviews a year and we discuss what development is available to that person.
DD: You get a good feel for how a new recruit is performing about 18 months in. Then you can put in place a formal development programme. In some cases I have even sponsored people to do an MBA.
When the time comes you should have two different conversations about performance review and career development. In the second, if the person says they have aspirations to be, say, the CEO, it can be made known to them what skills they actually need to reach that goal. A lot of people say they want to be in a certain role one day without knowing what it involves.
MR: All staff training is based on their aspirations and Visit Scotland’s requirements. As people develop we are able to build a clearer picture of future learning and development options. There are benefits to be had from developing talent from within but also balanced with bringing in new talent, which helps to stimulate new thinking.
AW: Once an individual has completed their induction and any mandatory training, it’s up to them to discuss with their manager how they would like to handle their personal development. A range of internal learning and development courses and resources are available for management development and all employees are allocated an allowance for external training.
RW: Those who attend our Marketing Foundation Programme are graduates who come in from our Future Leaders Programme. We train them up to have the view that they can be the future leaders of the business. People are also placed across different areas of the business and even across countries to get on-the-job learning to help them prepare for more senior roles.
MW: How much of a focus is succession management in your company – is there more a focus on hiring from within or hiring externally?
MK: It’s a balance of the two. We would always look internally but there is also a lot of value in the new insights external people bring.
DD: External hires can be a good thing if your company is going into a new product or service area. Otherwise, if your succession planning is working, you shouldn’t have to hire externally.
RW: We aim for an average ratio of 70% internal and 30% external; and when we do the planning we identify roles where we might like to bring somebody in from outside. For some of our more specialist roles the ratio might be the other way around. For example, if I was looking for a head of digital then I might go to the external market to build our internal digital capability.
MW: How does training differ for someone who comes in externally compared with someone who is promoted internally?
MK: People are offered the same opportunities and you can overlay that with bespoke opportunities for different people. One of the reasons why my role was created at Heineken was that there hadn’t previously been such a structured approach to training. The biggest difference is that we now have a substantial induction programme in place.
AW: All new employees at Expedia receive induction and orientation training. Employees are responsible for their own development, although managers may use 360-degree assessments to identify priorities for development.
RW: If they are coming in externally at graduate level and were not part of the graduate programme their training would be different. Anybody at management level coming in wouldn’t have different opportunities, although for the first couple of months we would put together an induction programme for them.
MW: Do you think employers who promote succession management retain staff more effectively? Or do you think employers who don’t focus too heavily on it benefit from external recruits?
MK: Earlier in my career, I left one job because of a lack of succession planning. I didn’t know where I was going next and it was very demotivating. However, you can overdo succession planning and put the wrong person in the wrong role just for the sake of it being filled internally. In an ideal world, it’s a mix of both.
DD: Most good employers I know have good succession planning in place and are talking to their staff about it, and they hang around. If you want to bring someone external in and you already have someone that might have been able to do that role, you would have to explain why you looked externally.
AW: Companies that attract and nurture talent are generally more successful. However, the best companies have the agility to cope with a world that is rapidly changing. In the real world, disruptive technology, competitors or changes in ownership or leadership may mean that organisational structures need to be more fluid. Therefore, a more flexible approach to succession management is to build pools of functional experts – one of innovators, one of leadership talent – and draw on them when opportunities arise.
RW: We look externally if we don’t have the skills internally, for example if we are looking for a new capability in a new category, or want to bring in some significant change. However, 70% of the time I would want us to promote from within.