For a smooth internal transition

Audrey Patenaude, newly appointed chief marketing officer for home care retailer Johnny Vac (Picture: Courtesy)

RECRUITMENT OF EXECUTIVES AND MANAGERS. To ensure that an employee’s promotion to a management position goes smoothly, rigorous preparation is certainly required. There are many tools, tests and interview questions that can help measure a candidate’s skills. However, there is nothing better than field experience to determine what a new framework really needs to improve in order to perform its tasks well.

“Clients tell us, ‘This person got the job, they know what to do.’ Error!” also warns Huguette R. Boulanger, human resources consulting partner at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton (RCGT).

This refrain, Élise Boutin Michaud, who has several years in the world of headhunters, has heard it many times. However, the person promoted internally should be entitled to the same support as any other employee who starts work, she says.

To support the new executive, the one who was recently appointed senior director of business intelligence and strategy as well as chief of staff to the managing partner for the Quebec region at KPMG suggests assigning him a “mentor of ‘integration”. Ideally not coming from the company, this help should not be accountable to the immediate superior of the recruited person.

She has often observed that it is the interpersonal skills that managers want to develop. With the pandemic and the massive adoption of virtual collaboration, “it is all the more difficult to establish a climate of trust with employees that we have never met”, she illustrates.

When she was appointed to the position of marketing director of the cleaning products retailer Johnny Vac, Audrey Patenaude rightly hastened to ask for training. “It’s new for me, managing employees, but I discovered this interest in the last few months,” she says. Thus, his first training concerns e-commerce, but the next one will focus on management and leadership.

The director of human resources advice at RCGT, Katy Langlais, is sometimes called upon to help ill-prepared executives to enable them to become better managers. “We name them and we think they will be able to do it now, but no. We must accompany them, she recalls. It’s the same approach as the first 100 days of a president.”

The sensitive period, according to Élise Boutin Michaud, is effectively the first trimester in office. To assess the quality of the integration of the new manager, nothing better than to establish measurable targets. “Simply writing that a person must integrate into the team, it is not, she notes. Goals should be quantitative. For example, plan five meetings with members of external teams, 10 with colleagues and one with the CEO. That is measurable.”

However, the new recruit must demonstrate that he is motivated to improve. “After three support sessions, if he does not commit, does not do the exercises and does not put in the effort, I stop everything, says Katy Langlais. Mozart said it takes 10,000 hours to be a good pianist; it is the same for a manager.”

Prepare the rest of the team

Having demonstrated her qualities as a leader long before her appointment as director, Audrey had only good words from her colleagues when the news circulated among the forty employees of the Montreal SME. She had already started some projects and announced her colors, she who is particularly interested in the optimization of processes.

However, not all transitions are as smooth.

Once the promotion is announced, the working relationship changes and a distance can settle between this colleague who has become the boss and the rest of the team. “It can become difficult to deal with the disappointment of others. Management must support it,” says Monia Boulais, certified human resources consultant and founder of MB Human Resources. She also recommends that companies that have just made such an appointment keep the door open to listen to the concerns of employees following this announcement.

Executives are often recruited to fulfill a very specific mandate, in which they will have to show managerial courage, adds Élise Boutin Michaud. “Ultimately, it may mean thanking someone who is hurting or slowing down the team. It can create friction, and you have to be prepared for that.”

Even the integration within the rest of the management team must be anticipated in order to take into account the existing dynamics. “It must be a joint responsibility, recalls Monia Boulais. By naming his expectations, the president or the general manager will make it possible to clarify them.

Integration could be all the more necessary if a company tries to diversify its hitherto homogeneous management team. “If it is made up of white men in their fifties, the arrival of a person from diversity may ruffle some feathers,” says Élise Boutin Michaud.

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What qualities should we look for in a candidate today?

According to the experts we met, the ideal aspiring executive must demonstrate emotional intelligence and communicate well, both his vision and the less good news. He must have a team spirit and be agile, especially in times of transition. Mentoring skills are a prerequisite, as is the ability to see the big picture.

“In some organisations, technical skills are even given second place, life skills being more important than know-how”, observes Huguette R. Boulanger.

However, Katy Langlais warns management teams against their own cognitive biases. As part of her doctoral research in project management at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, she observes that today, although there are more women in management positions, the leadership profile sought remains very masculine.

She recommends companies review the profiles they have in mind when thinking about the “dream” recruit. Very often, the one they are looking for and the methods they apply to get there are 10 or 15 years old. It is no longer adapted to the current reality, even less to the changes that will occur over the next few years.

“These are broader skills that will be more viable in the long term: emotional intelligence, analytical skills and those in computerized management systems, lists the director of human resources advice. As we will work more and more with artificial intelligence, we need analytical people who have a heart and who can demonstrate agility and openness.”


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For a smooth internal transition


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