Critical roles are crucial to an organisation’s current and future success and can be identified against the backdrop of two factors: (1) the prominence of the role in the success of the company and (2) the degree to which the role encompasses a scarce skill. Having a clear definition of critical roles is an essential starting point for identifying the right employees and realising their prospective to succeed.

According to CEB, a best practice insight and technology company, the best companies use predictive measures to identify critical roles, compare them against the competition and develop them through on-the-job training and succession planning to drive performance impact.

CEB has studied critical roles and high-potential programmes for over a decade and has identified three central factors that determine their success:

  1. Aspiration:

The person has the potential to rise to a more senior position.

  1. Ability: 

The person has the potential to be developed and promoted.

  1. Engagement: 

This person is thoroughly committed to the organisation and won’t leave.

Organisations should offer an appropriate succession plan to all workers employed by the company, but management should especially pay attention to those holding critical positions.

Growing and maintaining a well-developed cadre of employees requires a commitment on the part of companies and their boards, and an investment over time, a study by Harvard Business Review states. Internal succession candidates don’t spring up fully formed overnight. Capable successors are the product of years of planning, mentoring, and guidance – ideally as much as five years ahead of a planned transition – to ensure that they acquire the skills and experience they will need.

The company must ensure that its talent management and development planning is linked to its longer-term business strategy. During both regular board meetings and at intensive off-sites, many companies now link strategy sessions and talent development sessions to ensure that any shifts in the strategy will inform what will be required of future frontrunners. Since an array of possible future scenario need to be planned for, corresponding different leadership profiles should be planned for as well.

Candidates should be assessed against industry benchmarks, valid indicators of critical potential as well as the role profiles developed. Leadership should acquire an accurate, unfiltered, multi-dimensional view of candidates’ strengths and weaknesses in a mix that includes quantitative assessments that can evaluate not only relevant competencies and experiences, but also beneath-the-surface personal traits and drivers that will align with success.

Janko A. Kotzé
Organisational Psychologist
M: +27 (0)83 233 7147

About the author

Janko is an Industrial and Organisational (IO) Psychologist and holds a Master’s Degree in IO Psychology at Unisa (Cum Laude). He has extensive consulting experience and has designed and delivered Talent Management solutions to over 30 clients across various industries.

He is the Founder and Director of Human Interest Consulting. A boutique talent management consulting firm that partners with organisations to create high-performing, integrated Talent Ecosystems that allow people to prosper. He is a skilled people strategist and facilitator and likes to embed new strategies through individual and group coaching engagements.

Janko has written numerous articles and is a sought after conference speaker. He has represented South Africa in the 110m hurdles at Youth, Junior and Senior National level and has aided international athletes and sport teams in the art of Mental Excellence.

Janko’s qualifications include a BCom Sport Management, BCom Hons Industrial Psychology, Certificate in Marketing & Customer Centricity (Cum Laude) and an Intensive Coaching Training Accreditation (Cum Laude). He is a member of Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA), Society for Industrial and Organisational Psychologists of South Africa (SIOPSA), Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and the South African Board for People Practices (SABPP).

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