Magazine article Personnel Journal

Succession Planning Drives Plant Turnaround

Magazine article Personnel Journal

Succession Planning Drives Plant Turnaround

Article excerpt

At a division of the Philadelphia-based Scott Paper Company, a new approach to mangerial revitalization has changed the way managers view their jobs, resulting in a 35% increase in plant manufacturing capacity.

The turnaround was accomplished without a major infusion of new employees and managers, based instead on a promotion-from-within approach that's considered essential in effective succession planning systems and management development programs.

"The approach worked because it focused on a management philosophy that links the constant improvement of products and services to the continual growth of individual employees," says Sharon Robbins, vice president and head of Scott Worldwide Food Service. Specific developmental activities were designed to merge the objectives of the organization, such as economic indicators, quality improvement and customer satisfaction, with individual aspirations to constantly improve performance.

The succession planning system spearheaded a skills training and management development program run by the human resources department that involved employees at nine Scott Container Products Group plants across the nation. (The Container Products Group was sold to Phoenix-based Wincup Inc. in February 1992.) Some 50 key management positions in the manufacturing operations of this food-service-products organization, including plant managers and plant supervisors, were the focus.

While looking to identify ways to improve operations at the newly acquired division. Scott Paper discovered that many of its basic problems stemmed from employee dissatisfaction. "People were downtrodden after years of difficult business conditions and downsizing; an autocratic style of management prevailed; people didn't understand their jobs; and layers of management had been stripped out of the company, creating broader and less-manageable spans of control,"explains Robbins.

To set up the succession planning system, the Scott group hired King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based WMS and Company, Inc. consultants. Several key components were included in the process:

1) The company provided WMS with detailed job descriptions for each of the positions covered in succession planning, as well as separate lists of more than 60 attributes of successful managers in each position. Together with background information on Scott organizational objectives and corporatewide developmental perspectives, this information allowed WMS to tailor the assessment process to the needs of the organization and positions.

2) WMS developed an individual assessment process to be conducted in day-long sessions at WMS headquarters in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. These sessions not only tested and evaluated candidates but also included time for developmentally oriented feedback with assessors, designed to improve managers' commitments to their own development.

3) The consulting firm provided written reports on assessment and feedback sessions to Scott management. These included test results, strengths and development needs in terms of job descriptions and role competencies and specific training needs.

THE ROLE OF CLEAR JOB DESCRIPTIONS. A first step in the development of the succession plan was the preparation of job descriptions and role competencies for all positions. Managers were heavily involved in this process, providing initial information on job descriptions and attending management development sessions that explained role competencies and how they relate to their jobs, to overall employee relations and to the management culture in the company.

These actual, company-specific job descriptions, the values sought by the organization in its managers and the skills and competencies needed to perform jobs, were key to the effectiveness of the individual assessments conducted by WMS.

Clear, explicit job descriptions that include key results and measurements of the results allow individual assessment and testing to be far more job-related and relevant to the company than more standardized assessment or group testing that takes place without clear criteria. …

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