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Guest AuthorPrabodh Sirur

The Nachfolger Committee – empowering your young HiPo employees

By | Prabodh Sirur | Vice President – HR at Manipal Technologies Ltd. 

I am sharing my experience of how we formed a committee of young employees to select our nomination for a global summit. And how the experience gave us an idea of creating a framework (the Nachfolger Committee) as a way of developing HiPos (High Potential employees). For all you know, you can apply it at the personal level also by empowering your kids to learn to make decisions.

A German name to the committee is to appreciate our German colleagues, famous for their rational decision-making capability (Nachfolger means Successor).

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In 2011, our India CEO, Abhay Gupte, received a mail from our corporate office asking him to nominate one person from India for the One Young World Summit in Zurich. We were assigned the task of identifying our nominee. But before I share you how we went about it, let me tell you how high profile the nomination was.

What ‘One Young World summit’ is

The One Young World Summit is a global event where more than a thousand young leaders get together from across the globe (the 2011 Zurich summit was attended by 1,300 young leaders from 170 countries).

(Picture credit – The Chronicle Herald)

These young people get to meet/listen to global leaders (such as Desmond Tutu-Nobel Laureate, Kofi Annan-ex General Secretary of United Nations, Bill Clinton-former President of the United States of America), Business leaders (such as Sir Richard Branson-Virgin Group, Paul Polman-CEO, Unilever etc.), sportspeople (such as Boris Becker, Steve Waugh etc.), Actors, Economists, ……

This was a really big event. It was also a great event for the participants, a great springboard in their leadership journey.

The person had to be less than 25 years of age and had to have a history of demonstrable leadership.

It was a tough task and we had only a week to send the nomination.

This is how we selected our ‘One Young World Leader’

It was important to do the selection in a fair and transparent manner. We, therefore, created a communication for all employees telling them about the summit and asking for their nominations. We asked for presentations from each nominee about ‘why they were suitable to participate in the global summit’. We then shared their presentations with employees and asked for their votes.

We had only one week and it was difficult for us to constitute a selection committee of the management team because of their availability issues. This is where we conceived the idea of a committee of young high performers. We decided to form a committee of 5 high potential employees who were less than 30 years old who had to select a sub-25-year-old leader. We asked Nandini Naik, Head of Communications and a HiPo, to chair this young selection committee.

The committee members really worked hard. They identified the selection parameters, agreed to the weightages for their parameters and weightage for the employee votes. They went through all presentations and sat through the speeches made by the nominees and finally selected Narayan Govindraj, a young software engineer from our Chennai office.

We published our nomination and Narayan proceeded for the summit. It was a great learning for the selection committee. We had saved the time of our seniors and at the same time created an ‘experience’ for our future leaders.

It was also a great experience for Narayan. In his words, “The One Young World experience changed my entire perspective on CSR, environmentalism and whole lot of other issues which I never considered to be affecting me. It gave me a global perspective on the situation in different countries which were contrary to media reports.” The experience helped him in his career. I have no doubt that he will, someday, do a handsome payback to the society.

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Why the idea of Nachfolger Committee is useful to business

This experience convinced us that this idea of getting young people involved in decision making is an excellent idea helpful to business. Here is how.

CEOs, Heads of Businesses and Functions face a big problem of overload. They receive a large number of tasks where their approval/decision is required. Many of these tasks can be easily managed by the Nachfolger Committees giving a bonus time to the seniors

Most companies have a programme of identifying HiPos and grooming them for leadership roles. Many a time, companies have difficulty in finding tasks/projects for HiPos. The concept of Nachfolger Committee is one great option to utilise HiPos and enhance their decision making capability

When the HiPos are formally trained in the decision-making process, the learning willadd value to their day-to-day responsibilities

This is a good option for employee retention because of the exposure provided for their professional growth

This is also a value-add to the organisation’s culture building exercise because of the formal decision-making process

Where the concept will not be effective

The concept may not be useful in a small organisation where the CEO works closely with the team

The concept will not run for long in organisations that do not believe in delegation or do not have trust in their subordinates or where seniors have fear of losing control

If you believe that by delegating, you are developing your people, this concept will work. Else it will not

If your people also believe that this additional task is for their good, the Nachfolger committee will be successful; if not, it will fizzle out soon.

Ready to take it up?

Hope this sharing helps you establish a positive framework for your organisation. Wish you success in building powerful Nachfolgers for your organisation’s growth. A good article here to give you an insight on how special assignments are a good tool to provide opportunities to stretch skills, provide learning and/or leadership development.

At personal levels, you could teach your children the nuances of how decisions are made and watch the fun how they make decisions for the family. A good link here that will provide more information about how to inculcate the skills of decision-making in them.

(Picture credit – Mom-Psyche)

The implementation details as below.

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How to implement the Nachfolger Committee concept

Let me first thank my colleagues Prakash Prabhu and Vidya Shenoy for their ideas/involvement in creating this framework.

Here is how the framework looks

Implementation steps

Assign ownership of the process

HR should own this because they own leadership development and succession planning processes.

Create process

Create the all required processes e.g.

  1. Responsibility matrix
  2. Selection process for selecting the committee members
  3. Process for defining categories of decisions that will be taken up by the committee
  4. Process flow of activities including how the decision will be communicated
  5. The Process of conducting the committee meetings, including how/when the meetings will be conducted, how the decisions will be recorded, how the records will be maintained, escalation/conflict resolution mechanism, responsibilities of all stakeholders etc. The Committee takes the decision on behalf of the CEO or Business/Function Heads. It is, therefore, very important to maintain the proceedings properly so that the senior management can refer to the records in case a decision is challenged
  6. Process for review of the Committee’s working – who will review the process, at what frequency, what kind of MIS will be submitted etc.

Identify/prepare the Committee members

Ideally, there would be three types of roles

  1. Process owner (HR nominee) – to ensure that the process is being followed in letter and spirit. He/She will also facilitate the identification/training of the Committee members
  2. Facilitator – to run the meetings. Ideally, the Personal Assistants of the CEO or the Business Heads are best suited to do this task. They have great insights into how the business runs and how the seniors make decisions. This task will help them in their career progression too
  3. Decision makers (the identified HiPos) – decision owners. The selection of the Nachfolger Committee members should be done with such rigour that becoming part of the committee becomes a matter of pride. HR should build appropriate additional financial/career benefits for the committee members. Appropriate formal training on decision making should be planned

Create communication

Create awareness about the committee to all employees to share with them the overall process and the benefits of the initiative etc. The communication should generate positivity among employees and not a feeling of – “Oh, one more hurdle to delay the decisions.” You will need to ensure that speed of decision making is not impacted because of this new layer in the decision-making process by defining appropriate timelines.

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Postscript:

Whenever I create an article, I want to write something about Impressionism. The Impressionist art movement is my source of inspiration. It reminds me to think about innovation and about challenging the status quo.

Impressionism (1860-1890) is a 19th-century art movement. It was started by painters to challenge the then existing style of painting. They re-defined painting as an impression of one’s mind rather than what is seen by the eye. They turned the artistic establishment upside down with their revolutionary new approach to painting.

Today I want to write about Georges Seurat (1859-1891). A post-impressionist painter, Seurat is noted for devising the painting techniques known as pointillism (a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of colour are applied in patterns to form an image).

The painting below is called A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. This was painted during 1884-86.

Reprinted with permission & originally published by Prabodh at www.linkedin.com

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