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Finding interns

Succession planning — can it be used to create internship programmes?

For some time now many young people have been complaining about the selection criteria of most organisations. Only recently some young university graduates were complaining about being unable to get a job because most job specifications listed in the media or on company websites stipulate prior knowledge/experience.

They are suggesting that the job situation is a catch 22 where they do not have the necessary work experience and hence require the job to achieve the experience, but cannot get the job through lack of experience. Yet organisations insist on specifying work experience, knowing full well that they do not have it.

Some students suggest that these organisations create internship programmes and partner with the university or college to ensure that they acquire the best candidates for the job positions along with helping them to gain the knowledge or experience needed.

One bright, young potential candidate added an alternative view and suggested that the management of more Barbadian firms could utilise the model of some accounting firms where human resource managers recruit candidates by making use of college fairs. This medium could also be used to attract applicants for internship programmes that could be used as part of the human resource succession plan in the organisation.

The article this week is about succession planning as a tool for attracting employees through internship programmes.

So what is succession planning? Most managers would proclaim that they always incorporate this type of planning into their overall long-range plans. This claim can be disputed given the haphazard way in which some organisation operate, with most top managers spending the majority of their time “putting out small fires”.

Since they often end up saying one thing and then doing the other like some politicians we have observed recently. Take for instance, the inter-school sports debacle that recently unfolded; one can only conclude that no kind of planning took place, at least not a results-oriented one given the outcome. Anyhow I will not digress any longer. Succession planning can be defined as “an ongoing, dynamic process that helps an organisation to align its business goals and its human capital needs … with changes to the business environment and it … centres on organisational excellence” (Butler & Roche-Terry, 2002).

In addition, given the dynamic method in which business has been emerging in recent times it appears as if management wants to hire individuals who can “hit the ground running”, so to speak. Actually it is so dynamic that very often managers do not take the time to train the “new employee”.

As a result, many new recruits do not have the knowledge needed to complete the job effectively. Take for instance, the new anti-money laundering act; most customers may have read about this act in the media but it is not until they go to transact business in a financial institution that they will come into contact with the requirements of this act.

Therefore if the teller is unfamiliar with the act or not given the training needed to provide guidance to customers then some problems would occur.

Take for instance what occurred on a trip to a financial institution some time after the act was introduced. A customer who was accustomed to making her mortgage payments in cash visited a near-by branch to make a payment. When she approached the teller with her cash payment she was told by a very young recruit “you got to open an account” the customer replied that she already had an account which she identified as a mortgage account.

On hearing this, the teller who was now visibly upset walked off to refer the matter to her supervisor. The supervisor approached the teller’s space and without saying a word to the customer, instructed the teller to complete two vouchers and take the money and give the customer a copy.

The customer left the bank without understanding that this new procedure is part of the anti-money laundering requirement. It was only some time later while repeating the ordeal to friends and relatives she was made aware of this new act which the bank had neglected to communicate to her, their “valued” customer.

One can only wonder how many other customers were treated in this surly and ungracious manner. I contend that if the teller in this scenario had received the necessary training she would have made the customer aware of these new procedures.

Indeed, if management had taken the time to enlighten staff about the changes as it relates to unlawfully obtaining gains from wrongdoings by criminals they would not resort to blaming the central bank for every problem that they do not know how to solve.

It is about time that managers recognise that along with the ongoing need to attract the right employees for the job they have an obligation to their stakeholders (board of directors, customers, public, employees etc) to at least ensure that employees are trained to deliver high quality service every time.

Moreover, there appears to be a growing disconnect between entry-level responsibilities and further duties within the organisation. You see, if the organisation is planning that these new recruits will take over when generation X retires then, careful training must take place on entering the organisation and it must be a continuous process through out.

Hence, developing a good succession plan could include creating a career path through partnering with a university or college by developing much needed internship programmes. With the right approach the organisation would be creating an environment in which young minds would flourish under the leadership and guidance of experienced individuals, thereby enabling new recruits to build up the experience and the expertise needed to be valued employees. Also, when an employee is provided with these opportunities then the organisation will reap the benefits in the long run.

Clearly succession planning requires that an employee be treated in such a manner that he/she feels the need to carry the mantle when their predecessors have left the enterprise. To me, this is what succession planning is all about.

It should involve careful planning, attention to organisational support as well as commitment to creating a positive culture that allows employees to overcome all barriers towards making a successful organisation.

In fact, all the roles in the organisation should be defined in such a manner that an employee can easily recognise the linkages between their role and the mechanisms that result in creating an effective succession plan. My advice to managers is the next time an applicant is turned down for a job because they lack the necessary experience maybe creating an internship programme during succession planning would do the trick. Until next time…

* Daren Greaves is a Management & Organisational Psychology Consultant at Dwensa Incorporated. e-mail:, Phone: (246) 436-4215

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