EXPLO R ING H R PERSPECTI VES O N S U CCE SSION PL AN N I N G AS

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1 EXPLO R ING H R PERSPECTI VES O N S U CCE SSION PL AN N I N G AS R E TENTI ON AI D F O R E NG INEERING PROFESSIONAL S : T HE C AS E OF S AD R I I N 2007/08) B y Vin cent Cheney 1 and He ster N ienaber 2 V in cent Cheney, Nanoteq, e -mail za D r He ster Nienaber, Un isa, e -mail n za 1 MBA graduate of the University of Pretoria, Senior Lecturer, Department of Business Management, Unisa (corresponding author) 1

2 EXPLO R ING H R PERSPECTI VES O N S U CCE SSION PL AN N I N G AS R E TENTI ON AI D F O R E NG INEERING PROFESSIONAL S : T HE C AS E OF S AD R I I N 2007/08 AB S T R AC T Succe ssion planning is a ke y talent m a nagement in it iative. I t p la ys an important role in ensu ring that c r it ica l s kills a re a va i lable at all l e ve l s throughout the organisation, so that the o r ganisation can a chieve a competitive advantage. Succe ssion pla nning ensu res the bench st rength of the o r ganisa tion and in tegrat ion between the emplo yees s kills and the o r ganisa tio n s st rategy, thus m a kin g p ro vision f or i ts perf ormance in the lo n g run. T his s tudy r eport s on H R s p erspect i ves on succession plannin g as a r etention a id f or engineerin g p rofessionals in the South Af ric an defence - re lated i ndust ries in 2007/08, wh ic h we re f ound to be in a declin in g lif e c ycle. T he study wa s undertaken to e xam ine what practica l m ethods o r ganisations we re emplo y i n g to retain engineerin g s taff in light of the cu rre nt s kills shortage, partic u la r l y in the f ie lds of science, engineerin g and technolo g y in South Africa. K E Y WORDS : Succe ssion plannin g, engineering professionals, South African defence - re lated indust r ies, competitive advantage, retention, bench st rength, talent pipeline I INTRO DU C TION T he ce ntra l dilemma conf rontin g h i gh t echnolo gy c ompanies, l ike those a ct i ve in the South African defence - re lated indust r ies (S ADRI ), i s how to succe ssf u lly m anage t wo conflict in g t rends: continuit y and r apid change. Continuit y ensu re s, i nter a lia, t h e ava i lability of the r e qu i red talent, su ch as engineer ing talent, to sustain the pro ductive c apacit y of the o r ganisation. Rapid change, on the other h and, 2

3 ensu res that the o r ganisation adapts s wif t l y to the e ve r -c hanging needs of customers. Both appro ach e s aim a t ach ie vin g t he lo n g - term goal of the o r ganisa tio n, which is s urviva l and gro wth, as m easu red b y perf ormance, and ultimately exp re ssed as profitability. T he traditional approach to the d i lemma of c ontinuit y a nd rapid c hange i s to m anage the d iffe re nt part s of the organisa tio n e ither f or effic iency o r innova t ion. Effic iency i ncludes attention to p roduct i vity, wh i le in nova tio n focuse s on se i zing i m p ro vement opport unities. T he a vailabilit y of engineers p ro vides a useful m easure of in nova tion potentia l, and a t the same t ime ensu res co ntinuity. It stands to r eason that talent pla ys an important ro le i n m anagin g both c ontinuit y and r apid change. T a lent at a ll h ie rarch ica l le ve ls and o ccupations within the organisation f orm s one of the build in g b locks of an organisation s competit i ve advantage (Boxall 1998; Grant 1996; H e inen & O Ne i l l 2004; He lf at & Peteraf 2003; Joia 2000; N ienaber 2002; Peteraf 1993; T ru ss & Gra tton 1994). C ompetit i ve advantage attract s cu stomers on t he b asis of s uperio r valu e offered t o them, wh i le at the same t ime defendin g the o r ganisa tion s va lu e offer f rom e rodin g effort s on t he part of c ompetit ors. Competit ive advantage i s the f oundation of an effect i ve st rategy ( Ca rpenter & Sanders 2009; D a vid 2 009; I re land, Ho skisson & H i tt 2009; Nienaber 2002 ; Pearce & R obinson 2009; T h ompson, S tric k land & Gamble 2 007). It f o llows then that central t o the h i gh technolo gy organisation s st ra tegy s hould be the m anagement of it s talent a s talent give s effect to the o r ganisation s s trategy. T h is view i s i n accordance wit h the r esource -based view of the f i rm ( H elf at & Peteraf 2003; Peteraf 1993) a s we l l as the knowle d ge -based vie w of t he f irm in dicatin g the i m portance of staff and how they a re applied i n c reatin g and m a intain in g a competit i ve advantage. 3

4 T he dilemma of continuit y and ra pid change i s e xace rbated w i th the appare nt lack of s k ills world wide, e specia l l y in the f ie ld s of science, technolo gy and engineerin g in South Africa ( see f or e xample A xe lro d, Ha ndfield -J ones & W elsh 2001; Bodden, Glu cksm an & Lasky 2000; Business R eport 2 007; Chambers, Foulon, H andfie ld -Jo nes, H ankin & M ichaels 1998; Engineering N e ws ; M a il & Guard ian 2007a, b). T he m obilit y of h i gh ly s k i lled emplo yees, part ic ula r l y engineers, intensif ies the s it uation. In vie w of thes e a ggra vating c i r cumstance s, h igh technolo gy c ompanie s, like those in SADRI, are c ompelled to r eformulate their t alent m anagement s t rategi es, with s pecif ic emphasis o n succe ssion p lannin g. T he identif i cation and r etention of ke y emplo yees at a l l o r ganisati onal le ve ls has become c ru c ial f or gro wth and su stained perf ormance, especia l l y i n the defence - re lated i ndust r y i n South Africa. T h is i ndust r y i s a declin in g i ndust r y competin g f or talent with m o re attractive indust r ies, part i cularly f inance and m anufactur in g (S teyn & D anie ls 2003). Succe ssion p lannin g p ro vides f or the retentio n of crit i ca l skills r e qu i red to ensure that su stained va lue i s offered in terms of c ust omers changing needs; it a lso addre sse s the d ilemma of c ontinuit y and rapid change. P re vio us s tudies on succession plannin g focu sed on successo r origin ( C arlson 1961; Parrino 1997; Vancil 1987); the impact of s i ze and s uccession f re quency ( G rusky ); re lationships between s uccession (f re quency) and an organis ation s perf ormance (Beatty & Z ajac 1987; Gamso n & Sco tch 1964; G rusky ; Ip & J acobs 2006); the like l ihood of a su ccession e vent ( Nave en 2000) ; the d r i ve r s of succe ssion (Aberdeen Group 2006) ; successf ul su ccession p lannin g p ractices (Karaevli & Ha ll 2003); the f orm of a su c cession e vent ( Arn dt 2002; De utsch 2001; G i lp in 2000; S ch lo sse r 2003) ; and s uccession in genera l ( H R M Softwa re 2000). None of t hese studies 4

5 s pecif ic ally e xamined su cce ssion p lannin g as a retention aid f or talent to ensure competit i ve advantage. This study is thus aime d at f i llin g this gap in the research literature. T he purpose of t his a rt ic le i s t o report o n the pre va lence of s uccession p lanning within SADRI o r ganisations and it s potential applica tion as a retention aid f o r engineerin g p rofessional s, f rom an H R perspective. T heoretic ally, succe ssion p lanning a llo ws f o r the r etention and deve lopment of talent f or t he f uture, and encoura ge s i ndividual advancement. Given the potentia l r ole of engineers in attainin g a competitive advantage, their retention i s c ru cial in s ust ain in g not only o r ganisa tional but also national competit i veness. T H EORETIC AL B AC K G R O U N D A l l o r ganisations have succe ssion s ystems s in ce a t s ome point they will f a ce the challenge of replacin g c u rre nt leaders (F r iedman 1986). Succe ssion s ystems are also i m portant to ensu re that the o r ganisation is p ro vid ed wit h a sufficient number of c hoice s should a p lanned or unplanned su cce ssion e vent occu r : this i s commonly r eferred to a s the b ench st rength of the organisation. T he bench s t rength, at all leve l s o f the o r ga nis ation, affects the o r ga nisation s ability to remain c ompetit i ve ( Bady 2 007; Bers in 2008; Cunnin gham 2007; Jo seph, W il son, T a ylo r, Honey & Savo ie 2006; Kesle r 2002; P r ieur 2 007; Ro thwe ll 2002; S e ym our 2008; St -Onge 2007). T hese s uccession s yste m s range f rom formal, task -d riven approaches to i nformal r ela tionship -b ased approaches ( F ie gener & W els ch in C abre ra -Saure z, S aa -Pere z & G arcia -A lmeida 2 001). Rothwell ( 2005:6) defines s uccession pla nnin g a s a deliberate and s ystematic effort b y an o r ganis ation to ensu re l eadersh ip continuit y in ke y positions, re tain and d e ve lop intellectual and kn o wledge capital f or the f uture, and encoura ge individual advancement. T his defin ition 5

6 i ncludes not only l eaders in the su cce ssion p lan, but a l l ke y role p la yers i n the organis ation who c ontribute to the perf o rmance of the o r ganisation. A potential outcome of a s ucce ssf ully im plemented succession p lannin g progr amme i s a sustainable tale nt pipeline wh i ch i s capable of sustainin g the f u ture perf ormance of the o r gani sation ( Conge r & F ulmer 2003). T he b road obje ct i ve of s uccession plannin g is thus to ensu re the a va i lability of incumbents when a vacancy a r ise s, to m otivate and encoura ge the qu ic k adoption of the i ncumbent s new r o le, and to ensu re f urther learn in g so th a t gr eater ro les can be a ssumed ( Clu tterbuck 2005). S uccessio n p lannin g should be an i ntegra l part of talent m anagement pra ct ic es that influence the r ecru itment, selection, m entorin g, c areer deve lopment, l eadersh ip deve lopment, c areer pla nning, recogn it ion a nd rewa r d in it iatives a imed at ensu rin g the su stained c ompetit i ve advantage of the o r ganisation (Bers in 2 008; Cunnin gham 2007; Hein en & O Ne ill 2004; Kesler 2002; Lamoureux 2009). S uccession plannin g s hould therefore be in tegr ated wit h the st rategy of th e o r ganisa tion. Succe ssion plannin g is more like l y to occur in organisations that : a. c ould reduce their costs asso cia ted wit h the succession e vent b y p lannin g the succe ssion pro ce ss b. p lace a high va lue on human capital c. have a st rong affinit y f or choosin g su cce sso r s f rom within the o r ganisation (Na veen 2000) T he retention of s k i l led technology wo r ke r s is important f or three r easons, namely ( 1 ) the continued su cce ss of the o r ganisation; (2) s k illed individuals have an increased number of emplo ym e nt options res ultin g i n h i gher m obilit y; and (3 ) o r ganisa tions m u st a vo id 6

7 i ncu r r in g high re cruitment, opportunit y and t ra in in g c ost s ( Mo sley & H u rle y 1999). Mo sle y and Hu r ley ( 1 999) therefore advocate a p roact i ve approach to staff retention c it in g that once individuals have a rt ic ula ted the desire t o leave, effort s to retain them m a y a l ready be too late. T he p roact ive approach could be sealed in s uccession plannin g. Engineers belo n g to one of three primary taxonom ic orientations, namely (1 ) a t echnica l o r ientation, ( 2 ) a m anagement o r ientation and ( 3 ) a p ro ject o r ientation (A l len & Katz 1 986). Engineers f a l ling in the technica l o r ientation show l it tle intere st i n m anagement and f ocus pure l y on t echnica l a spects ( a l so s ee Co rdero, D itimaso & Fa rris 1994). Engineers with a m anagement o rie ntation u se their tech nical e xpert ise a s background whil e p ro ject-oriented engineers f all in - between the technic al and m anagement o r ientations. Engineers f allin g within a project o r ientatio n wo u ld i n lieu of p romotion r ather be in vo l ved in intere st in g and challengin g proje ct s. Engineers a re valued f or their technic al e xpert ise, but a t times in their care er must c hoose b etween a technica l o r m anagement ca reer. T he provis ion of a dual ca reer ladder (DCL ) wo uld be one wa y of r etain in g tech nical t alent, l ike engineers, in technic al posit ions r ather than transit ionin g to management. In addit ion, the DCL s ystem j ustif ie s t he c reation of addit ional, non - supervisory p osit ions at r emuneration le vels comparable to e qu i valent m anagement positions ( S kelton 2003). T he DCL a l so r ecognis es technica l c ompetence and m a intain s o r ganis ational c apabilit y and competit i ve advantage ( Boxall 1998). N e ve r theless, I gbaria, Kassic ieh and S i l ve r ( 1999) a r gue that the D C L approach ( i n o ther wo rds i ndependent m anagemen t and 7

8 technica l ca reer paths ), although u seful a s a retention st rategy f or the o r ganisation, m a y not adequately a ddress the wo r k and ca reer needs of the individual, as i t m a y be applied in a m echanist i c wa y there b y negatin g the va lue of su cce ssion p lannin g. S ke lton (2003), howe ve r, belie ves that if properly applied a D CL approach obliges i ndividuals within these posit ions to m a intain their technical c ompetency implyin g an ongoing i n ve stment in education and t ra in in g that is deve lo pment as per the su ccessi o n plan. A cco rd in g to A llen and Katz ( 1986), implementatio n of a D CL s ystem s uffers f rom perceptual p roblems of prest i ge within o r ganisations p romotion within t he m anage r ia l path is seen a s bein g m ore p re st i gi ous than the e quiva lent technica l advance m ent. As such, the D CL approach is not often emplo yed and thus deve lopment and r etention of technica l staff suffer. In an effort to o ve rc ome the shortcomin gs of the DCL approach, Lee and Maure r (1997) co nst ru cted t he f ollo wing f i ve s tandard human r esource functions matched with each taxonom ic engineerin g t ype: a. s taffin g b. c ompensa tion c. grieva nce pro cedure s d. t ra in in g and deve lopment e. c areer plannin g At l east t hre e of these f unctio ns are in c luded in effec t i ve su cce ssion p lannin g the exceptions perhaps bein g g r ie vance p roce dures and c ompensa tion. Lee and M aurer (1997) p ropose t hat the appro ach to s taffin g, t ra in in g and development, a nd ca reer p lannin g be tailo red to su it the taxonom ic engineering t ype. Customising the p ro cess based upon the p re valent engineerin g t ype, a ccord in g to Lee and 8

9 M aure r ( 1997), implie s that the organis ation has, o r i s willin g to do the follo win g: a. A gree on defin itions f o r each engineerin g t ype a cco rd in g to o r ganisational realit ies and not based upon a rb it ra ry a nd artif i cial d is tin ct ions. This view co r responds with that of Skelton (2 003). b. A ssign re sponsib ility f or implementing and admin i sterin g t ra in ing and deve lopment a nd c are er plannin g in it iatives to a n i ndividual o r group. This view i s consist ent with that of Kesle r (2002), Prieur ( 2007) and St-Onge (2 007). c. Integrate the successio n p lan with o ther s taffin g, t ra in in g and deve lopment, and ca reer d e ve lopment i nitia t i ve s s hould they e xist. T h is vie w i s consist ent with that of G ro ves (2 007) and H e inen and O Neill (2004). d. T ake into account th e individual s aspirations and se ek the c onsent of the i ndividual before assign in g a part ic ular engineerin g t ype. T his su pports the vie w of Gaffney ( 2005) who belie ve s that emplo yee re tention r ates impro ve when emplo yers c ollabora te with their emplo yees to align their ca reer d i rection with the goals of the organisation. Buy-in of engineers, i r respect i ve of t a xonom y, c ould be a m eans of p roact i ve l y r etain in g th e i r sca r ce skills based on their a spira tions. It i s e specia l l y t he defence - re lated i ndust r y in Sou th Afric a that can benefit f rom t his willin gness to engage in effec t i ve succe ssion p lannin g. T his i m p l ies that s u cce ssion p lannin g of these o r ganisations should be integr ated with talent m anagement i n it iative s, wh ic h s hould in t urn be integra ted with the st rategy of the o r ganisation to ensure its lo n g -term su r vival and growt h. 9

10 R ESE AR C H DE SIGN AN D M ETHO DO LOGY T he basic philosophic al a ssumptions held b y a r esearc her, a lthough l a r ge l y h idden in r esearch, influence the i n quiry ( C r eswe l l 2009) as they e xpla in wh y thin gs a re t he wa y t hey a re f or the researcher ( H ennin g, Van Rensburg & Smit 2004). T he in qu i ry r eported on is s i tuated in an in terp retivist r esearc h p hilo sophy with its emphasis on e xperience and interp re tation. I nterp retive re search is c once rned with m eanin g and s eeks to understand people s m eanin g -makin g, among others, of a so c ial realit y, in this instance HR s perspect i ves on su cce ssion p lannin g as retention aid f o r engineers in SADRI in 2007/08. As such the interp retive philo sophy seeks to p roduce descriptive analyses that emphasise unders tandin g of the phenomenon studied ra ther than s earch in g f o r b roadly applica ble l a ws. T he interpretive p hilo sophy i s co n gr uent wit h the purpose of this r esearch, namely e xp lo rin g the perspective s of p ra ct it ioners of s uccession p lanning as a retention aid of SADRI engineers with a view t o unders tandin g t his p ractice. Ontolo gica l l y, knowledge ( in the i nterp retivist philo sophy) i s subje ct i ve as understandin g is m u tually c onstru cted ( Hennin g et al 2004). T his is a lso app l icable i n t his i nstance wh ere the in terviewer const itutes an in s ider a s part of the i ntervie w and research p ro cess. T h rough interviews with a vailable s enior human rsource offic ia ls in the part ic ipating o r ganisa tio ns, part i cip ants perspect i ve s of successi on plannin g a s r e tention aid f or engineerin g professionals in SADRI we re e xp lo red. T he descriptions of the part ic ipants perspect i ve s of the socia l realit y studied p ro vided data wh ich f o rmed the b asis of themes and categorie s re ga rd in g the u sefulness of su ccessio n plannin g a s a retentio n aid f o r e n gin eering p rofessionals in SADRI. T hese themes could be used to develop s uccession plannin g a s a re tention aid f or engineering p rofessionals, part i cularly in SADRI. As su ch the themes can be genera l ised, rather than genera lisin g ( l a ws ) f rom sample to popula tion. T h is view is 10

11 s upported b y C ollis & Husse y ( 2009), C re s well (2009), Ha l lebone & P r iest (2009) and Hennin g et al (2004). T he above e xp lanation of the i nterp retivist philo sophy a llu des to the applica tion o f a qualitative r esearc h approach in co l lectin g and analysin g data f or this re search. In this instance usin g a qualitative r esearch approach was appropriate to the purpose of the in quiry c onducted. Fu rthermore, the qualitative approach is in l ine with the p redom inant re searc h a pproach within the interp re tivist philo sophy ( C ollis & H usse y 2009; Creswe ll 2009; Ha l lebone & Prie st 2009; H ennin g et al 2004). T he p roblem wa s studied b y w a y of c ase study wh i ch was deemed appropriate for this i n quiry, a s it e xp lo re d a c ontempora r y phenomenon in it s real-lif e co ntext ( Mye r s 2 009; Perry 2001). Empirica l e vid ence wa s obtained via i nterviews a s interviews we r e deemed to yield r i cher data than a su r ve y s i nce resp onse s to open-e nded qu estions could be cross -e xamined. A quest ionnaire with 28 open -ended qu est ions based on the theory p re sented in the p re vio us se ct ion wa s u sed as an interview gu ide. T he qu est ionnaire i s in cluded in the appendix. T he f irst f our quest ions co vered demographics, wh i le qu est ions 5 to 7 co ve red th e i m portance of engi neers i n the o r ganisa tion and su cce ssion p lannin g a s a t ool to retain them. Quest ion 8 attended t o the use of DCL, wh i le questio n 9 e xplored cu r rent r etention st ra tegie s. Quest ions 10 and 11 e xplored cu r rent succession p lannin g s t rategi e s, while quest ions 12 to 28 e xam ined the implementation of s uccession p lannin g in the organisation in question. Intervie ws we re a r ranged telephonica l l y o r via ele ct ronic m a i l (em a il) with the m ost senio r human re source m anage r within the o r ganisation, a s su cce ssion planning, genera lly, wa s f ound to be the 11

12 r esponsib i lity of the h uman re source s m anage r (see f or e xample P r ieur 2007). In the o r ganisations without a specif i c human resource m anage r, the interview wa s re qu ested with the m a nage r responsible f or talent m anagement. As su ch the interviewe e wa s deemed the person like l y to know t he m ost about the subject studied, takin g care of e xternal valid it y ( see Perry 2 001:319). Conse nt wa s re quested f rom the part i cipants prio r to commencement of the interview. H our-lo n g intervie ws we r e c onducted at the o r ganis ations premises at a t ime convenient f or t he participant o ve r a s i x -month p eriod. T he s uccession p lanning defin it ion as p roposed b y R othwe l l (2005:6) s erved a s the refere nce defin it ion throughout the int e r vie ws. In o r ganisations without f ormalised s uccession p lans, e vidence was s ought f or o ther s ystems o r p rocesse s that we re b roadly in l ine with s uccession p lanning s uch a s recru itment, l eadership development, t ra in in g, skills deve lopment and r etention. The c la r if ic ation of c oncepts took ca re of const ruct va l id it y as both i ntervie we r and i ntervie wee could a gree or d i sa gree on the defin it ion of the construct s tudied (P erry 2001). T hese i nterviews we re r e co rded and t ranscribed and t ranscriptions were analysed b y applyin g content analysis and descriptive statist ic s. T he SADRI consisted of a popula tio n of 44 o r ganisations, r epresentin g a range of p roduct s and turnove r categorie s. S ADRI o r ganisations we r e in vo l ved i n re search, deve lopment, p roduction and s ervice of m ilitary e qu ipment and f acilit ie s f or a st ate s armed f orces. T yp ica l p roduct s included land -based weapons (like guns and tanks), aero space s ystem s ( like a i rc raft, m is s ile s, sa tellites and f i gh ter je ts), nava l s ystems ( like nuclear submarines and advan ced anti-a i r defence s yst ems), telecommunication s ystems, power s olu tions and s urve i l lance radar. Organis ation s i ze va r ied f rom la r ge 12

13 o r ganisations that had a turnover in e xce ss of R250 m i l l ion per annum, wh i le the turnove r of small o r ganisations wa s betwe en R 10 m illion and R 50 m illion per annum. In the m a in, t hese o r ganisations we re not listed on the stock e xch ange and hence we re not compelled to d is c lose any i nformation. T he l im ited amount of public d is clo su re m e ant that the s tudy had to be c onducted on an o r ganisation -by-organis ation b asis with the a ccu racy and re l iabilit y of t he data being se ve re l y affected b y the amount of information willing to be disclo sed. Intervie ws p ro vided a m eans to o btain a deeper unders tandin g of the c ontext in wh ich a re spo n se was give n and to recogn ise that the approach to retention and succe ssion plannin g in particu la r would be unique. T he p urpose of this s tudy wa s to gain a cle arer understandin g, thus a sample of ten o r ga nisations wa s purposely s ele cted from dif ferent tur nove r catego r ie s. Although no ideal sample s i ze f or s tudies usin g a qualitative approach has b een e stablished, guidelines are a vailable f o r ca se s tudies. E is enhardt (1989) p roposes between f our and 10 f or ca ses, wh ile Mo rse ( in Denzin and L incoln 1994) su g gest s i x cases and C re s we l l (200 2 i n O n wu e gbuzie & Leech ) p roposes three to f i ve ca se s. As su ch the 10 o r ganisations s ele cted and the seve n re spondin g to the i n vitation to part i cip ate a re i n keepin g with t hese gu idelines f o r high - le vel qualitative, case s tudy, rese arch. Colle ct i vely the se ven part i cipating o r ganisations accounted f o r 71% of the SADRI turnover ( AMD 2004:12), repre sentin g a signif i cant port ion of SADRI. T he unit of analysis wa s thus the o r ganisations s tudied, wh i l e the unit of obse r va tio n was the person i ntervie wed (B a bbie 2007; Perry 2001 ). T he m a in lim itation of this s tudy c ould be that the views of the i ntervie wees we re not repre senting t he views of the organisation, e specia l l y in the case s of firm numbers 4 and 7 where a person other 13

14 than the one charged with the r esponsibilit y f o r succe ssion plannin g we r e in tervie wed a s we l l as in the c ase of f i rm number 1 where only one of three re sponsible part ie s we r e interviewe d. R e l iabilit y wa s ensu red b y u s in g a f o rmalised, s tru ctured pro ce ss wh i ch, if f ollo wed b y other researchers, should lead to gettin g the same re su lts. I t should be noted that this study also complied with ethical r e qu i rements as i nformed c onsent wa s obtained f rom part ic ipants and they were a ssured that the information su bmi t ted would be used on a c onfidentia l basis. T he o r ganis ations a re therefore not named, but rather numbered from one to seve n in this paper. R ESULTS AN D D ISCUSSION OF RESULTS T able 1 summa r ise s the p rofile of the respondin g f irm s. 14

15 T able 1: Organisati onal chara cteristi cs of the surve ye d or ga nisati ons Characteristic/Firm Number of employees (est) Defence-related Engineering professional as 23.5% 66.7% 72.2% 37.5% 40% 70% 20% percentage of total employees Shareholder Private Private Private State Private Private Publicly owned (ownership) German French South African South African Swedish French Engineering staff retention a Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Dependent on priority Formalised succession plan Yes Informal, semistructured Owner of succession plan Person interviewed Previous succession event Age of succession plan Who organisational level succession plan is directed at Board, CEO, HR Senior HR Manager Yes, 2 nd pending 13 years, 1st generation Top performers throughout BU No No No In process Yes HR CEO CEO Indefinite HR CEO Senior HR Manager CEO Senior HR Manager Senior Business Development Manager Senior HR Manager Yes Pending Pending No No No Not applicable Not applicable Not applicable Scarce skills Senior technical/ Senior and key management management individuals positions across the firm Senior Business Development Manager Not applicable Not applicable Varies between BU Key positions Executive and Business throughout management unit executive senior engineers Priority in formulating a succession plan High Medium Low High Medium Medium High Formulation time frame 3 months 2 nd generation Ad hoc Not applicable 12 months 2 3 years 12 months Reviewed yearly 15

16 T able 1 contain s a host of information that needs clarif i cation. T he s i ze of these f i rms va rie d in t erms of number of persons emplo yed and perce ntage of engineers f orm in g part of total emplo ym ent. Engineerin g p rofessionals could not be co r related wi th the o r ganisation s o ve ra ll s i ze. T he f i rm emplo yin g t he smallest number of pers ons ( 54) em plo yed the l a r gest percentage of engineers ( 72,2%). S i x of t he se ven resp ondents in dicated t hat the retention of engineerin g s taff wa s a prio r it y. One resp ondent indica ted that r etention was dependent on business units. T wo of t he re spondents i ndica ted that t he i r f i rms had a f ormal s uccessio n p lan in place, one had an informal s uccession p lan in p la ce, and one respondent i ndica ted that a f ormal succession p lan wa s i n p ro cess. T his obse r va tio n i s consistent with that of F ie gener and W els ch (2001), i ndica tin g that succe ssion p lans can vary f rom f ormal task -d r i ven to i nformal re lation -based. Three of the re spondents i ndica ted that the ir f i rms h ad no f ormal su ccessio n plan in p la ce. T h is observation is c onsis tent with Ha r ve y (2009), Kesle r (2002) a nd R othwe l l ( 2002), i ndica tin g that a number of f irm s negle ct succession p lannin g at all l e ve l s of the o rganisation, a lthough they m a y recogn ise it a s a business imperative. T he t wo re spondin g f i rm s with su ccessio n p lans in p lace i ndicated the a ge of t he su cce ssion pla ns a s 13 years and va r i ed between business u nits. T he a ge of the su cce ssion p lan se em ed to be outdated to take c are of cu rre nt retention is sues given the c hang ed demographic and competit i ve la ndscapes. T he m a jo rity of r e spondin g organisations i ndic ated that their s uccession plans we r e aimed a t senio r e xe cutives, wh i le a m inority 16

17 i ndica ted that t op perf ormers throughout the o r ganisation and t hose with sca r ce skil l s a l so throughout t he o r ganisation a re targeted in the su ccession p lan. T his obse r va tion is consist ent with Bady (2007) and Ha r ve y ( 2009) who note that t he su cce ssion p lannin g i s an uncommon p ra ct ic e a nd the defaul t su cce ssion p lannin g takes care of s enior e xecutive succe ssion and l it tle belo w t hat. T he c onse quence of negle ct in g lo we r e chelons of the h ie ra r ch y m i ght we aken the bench s t rength and adve rse l y affect the talent pip eline with se rio us conse quence s for the firm s perf ormance. T h ree of the re spondents indicated t hat su ccession p lannin g is a h i gh p r io r it y, three indicated i t a s a m edium p riority and one i ndica ted succe ssion pla nnin g a s a l o w p r io r it y. T he f ormulation time f rames of the successio n pla ns varied from three months to two /three ye a rs. T hese t ime f rames co r respond ed to the p r io rity given to s uccession planning in the resp ect i ve f i rm s. T he m a jo rity of these r esponse s seem ed at odds with the response s that r etentio n of engineerin g profes s ionals is a prio rity. T wo of the respondin g firms we re pre vio usly in volved in a su cce ssion e vent, wh i le three in dicated a pendin g su cce ssion e vent and three we r e not affected b y a s uccession event. The t wo f irms affected by a s uccession e vent had a f ormal and informal su ccessio n p lan in p lace. Succe ssion p lan o wners hip and t he re sponsib i l it y f or it s i m plementation we re f ound to re st with the ch ief exe cu tive officer ( C EO) in three of t he organisations. In t wo ca se s H R a ssumed the r esponsib i lity. In o ne case the su cce ssion plannin g p roce ss and decision rested with the o r ganisa tion s board, C E O and H R c olle ct i ve l y. T his re sponse seem ed to b e in l in e with top 17

18 m anagement s responsib i lity f o r the organisation s perf ormance. As s uch the top m anagers should k now what positions and s k ills r e qu i rements a re c r it ica l to st rategy e xe cution. And these s kills s hould f orm the f ocu s of retention efforts. Ho we ver, if l ine m anagement is not f amilia r with h uman re source pract i ces, like talent m anagement, and tech nical development opport unities a re give n p reference o ve r pers o nal deve lopment a nd t he a spira tional needs of the individual, m anagers m a y f i nd t hemselve s lookin g f or r eplacements. T his obse r vation t hat a CEO, board of d irectors and H R we re re sponsib le f or succe ssion p lannin g in one organisation is i n l ine with the vie w of P r ieur (2007) who notes t hat H R s hould not be the only department in vo l ved in succession plannin g. T he d rive rs behind su ccessio n p lannin g efforts i n part ic ipatin g o r ganisations with a su cce ssion p lan, and t hose contempla tin g one, a re illust ra ted in Figure 2 belo w. 18

19 F igur e 2: Dr i vers of succession planning F i gure 2 shows that the drive rs f o r su ccession p lannin g were genera l l y leadersh ip identif ica tion and deve lopment, f o llowed b y the unexpected lo ss of ke y l eaders, a ccommodat ing a change in o r ga n i sational st rategy, reduc i n g the co st of employe e replacement, emplo yin g a re tention st rategy and o ther reasons. F i gu re 2 i l lu st rates that leadersh ip i dentif ic ation and deve lopment wa s the dom inant m otiva tion behind succession p lannin g. T h is r esponse i s i n l i ne with the response of t he m ajo r it y of r espondents who d ire cted their su cce ssion p lannin g effort t owa r ds e xecutive positions. I t was, howe ve r, conce rn in g to note that su ccessio n p lannin g d rive s the r etention strategy in a small number of part ic ipatin g firm s. 19

20 O r ganisational pro cesses affected b y succession plannin g i nitia tive s a re illust ra ted in Figure 3. F igur e 3: O rganisati onal p rocesses a f fecte d b y s u ccession p lanni n g F i gure 3 shows t he e xtent to wh i ch r ecru itment, retention, m o tivation and perf ormance m anagement proce sse s were affected b y s uccession p lanning in it iative s. Clearly perf ormance m anagement wa s the m o st affected f o llo wed b y m o tivation and re cruitment, wh i le r etention was the least affected. T he information in F i gu re 3 s u ggests that su cce ssion p lannin g was integra ted with ( t yp ic al) talent m anagement in it iative s, pointin g t o the potentia l su cce ss of the succe ssion plannin g p ro grammes. A ga in the obse r va tio n that r etention wa s the least affecte d b y succession p lannin g is of c once rn. T h is response was consistent with retention s trategy a s a m inor d rive r of s uccession p lanning in t he respondin g f i rms. If s uccession p la y ed a l im ited ro le i n the retention of ke y s taff, the quest ion arose as to how t he firms wished to re tain them. 20

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