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4,000+ Senior Leaders Needed for Large Organization! Only a 73-day Hiring Window!

Mike Hoban You might have figured out the “large organization” is the U.S. government. Consider the challenges and variables in trying to orchestrate an effective transition of power, which last happened in 2008. As a succession management professional, you thought you’ve had some tough assignments.

  • 73-day Hiring Window!On or about January 21, 2017, over 4,000 leaders will be leaving the government, including almost all members of the C-suite and the CEO himself. A great deal of institutional knowledge will be walking out the door, and for many of those positions, there is no consistent knowledge capture process in place.
  • The hiring specifications or success profiles for these positions vary greatly. Considerations that must factor into the hiring decisions include personal and political viewpoints as well as personal and party loyalties. For many of these positions, a myriad of stakeholders need to be consulted and have input.
  • Oh, and by the way, the competency models for most of the positions are not products of robust job analysis. In fact, in some cases, the success criteria for the roles are different than for those of the incumbents doing the job today.
  • There are 1,212 key positions that, even after a job offer has been tendered, must be confirmed by the highest legislative body in the country (U.S. Senate). These appointments require additional vetting and background checks by that body.
  • The background vetting of most candidates must include meticulous examinations of potential conflicts of interest.
  • Many of the new hires will need security clearances, which, even when fast-tracked, can take many weeks.
  • Most of these leaders have not worked together before, so onboarding and team development will be needed.
  • And did I mention all of the relocation details and logistics—including temporary living arrangements—that must be handled? And all of the new personnel records that will need to be created for these newcomers?

Welcome to the U.S. political leadership transition of 2016-17. If it seems like a daunting undertaking, well, it is. Between now and the January 20 inauguration, there will be many long days and short nights by members of countless transition teams. Historians indicate that presidential transition has always been a mad scramble, even though it somehow always ended up reasonably successful.

The good news is that as a result of work performed by the non-profit organization Partnership for Public Service after the 2008 election, the transition process—including the massive hiring and vetting processes—are now better defined and formalized. More pre-planning activities have been identified. And for the most recent election, staff for both of the major party candidates began working on transition issues several months ago, not knowing what the election outcomes would be.

Still, the reality is that despite effective planning and process improvement, many senior positions will not be filled until months after the inauguration, leaving the agencies leaderless for a period of time—a crucial time for a new CEO-president wanting to get things done. But checks and balances are important for democracy, and this country has successfully managed through this transfer of power many times in its history.

And so it is at many of the organizations in which internal HR professionals work diligently with senior teams to help ensure executive transitions and leadership succession. Even with effective plans and processes, identification and deployment of top talent is hard work, even when those efforts are much more modest in scope (and less in the public spotlight) than is the transition of the U.S. government.

Mike Hoban is a U.S.-based senior consultant for DDI who works with executives in many different industries. He takes way too many pictures of Lake Michigan sunsets.

Posted: 13 Dec, 2016,
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