Contributors
Founder and Chair – LMFC
Vice Chair – LMFC
President and CEO – The Bank of Northern Michigan
SVP of Shared Services - LMFC
Senior Vice President, Traverse City Market Manager
All companies talk about the importance of their people and the key role they play in meeting corporate objectives. We are no different. We take our people and their careers seriously, and have a long-standing formal program in place to ensure we have the talent we need now and in the future. We needed to take another look at this program, however, given the age of some of our senior-level managers and the challenges we see facing our business in the future. We thought you might find our process helpful as you consider talent development and succession in your company.

As part of our annual strategic planning process, we established a board-level tactic to “Oversee talent management as it relates to senior-level succession planning, training initiatives, robust individual development plans, senior staff evaluation, and appropriate employment of new senior staff.” It was my responsibility to develop a strategy to meet this objective and gain agreement from our board of directors. We feel it is critical for the organization to know that this priority comes directly from the board and will be taken seriously throughout the company. 

We currently have a well-established annual performance review process and develop written individual development plans (IDP) for all of our employees. Each year in the first quarter, the executive management of the bank reviews these IDPs with every manager in the company. This information gives us a regular chance to think about our people, their development plans, and their potential within the company. The executive management team spent four days thinking exclusively about the people in the company and our future needs. 

This year, I employed an outside resource to sit in the review process with me and help me fine-tune this program. Together we looked at our existing practices, figured out what was working and what wasn’t, talked about every person in the company, developed succession career tracks, thought about the role of training in this process, and tried to identify people who had the potential to advance in the company. We also looked at our strategic plan and our vision for the future, and thought about the skills we need in order to be successful in a changing world and industry. This process forced us to honestly review each of our people against our future needs. This is not an easy process and required much discussion and (honestly, disagreement) within our executive team. 

The result of this process was a written document outlining various tasks to ensure we have the talent we need. It identified a process we will use in coming years to ensure our staff has the experience and skill to successfully compete in a changing industry. It also deals with replacing some of our people who might leave or retire in the near future. We view this as our road map to ensure we stay on track.

This process also defined specific executive-level competencies for us to use in evaluating talent. They are:

  • Ability to reach across the organization with credibility
  • Knowledge/passion for the financial services industry
  • Above par business acumen
  • Ability to understand the nuances of the organization relative to the marketplace
  • Strong management capabilities and the ability to assemble a team and to hold it accountable
  • Understanding of macro events in the world and national economy and their linkage to the organization
  • Established competence in functional areas
  • Communication that distinguishes a leader … sets the message with the right tone to effect change
  • Earns respect from internal and external colleagues
  • Brings strategic change and value to the organization
  • Ability to execute against a plan or tactic
  • Entrepreneurial mentality

These characteristics combined with the mental and emotional toughness required to lead helped us think about our people in a strategic way. 

This was a difficult and time-consuming process for us but has given us a plan to follow as we confront this important issue. We believe every business, large or small, should think about developing a similar plan. If you are running a small business, you might wonder what this has to do with you. We suggest you develop a strategic plan and a vision for the future, think about what type of people you will need in order to be successful, honestly evaluate the people currently working in your business, and use this process as you make staffing decisions in the future. These steps can be implemented in a business of any size. 

We would like to hear your comments and thoughts about this important topic.


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