How to Integrate Culture-Fit Into Succession Planning

The following is an excerpt from The 50: HR Leaders Reimagining the Filipino Organization. Authored by Patricia Yap, this chapter is titled, “How to Integrate Culture-Fit Into Succession Planning.” In it, Rodel Lagahit, the Senior Human Resources Manager of Prince Hypermart, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in succession planning and recruitment. 


The human resources profession is certainly too distant and far flung from the profession of, say, a surfer, right? Well, perhaps not entirely. Because similar to a novice surfer that’s just beginning to test the waters, the HR leader also progresses from small waves to bigger ones

But while the surfer goes through literal waters, the HR leader rides the same through his constituents. From waves of new hires, to rank and file, to managers, and eventually to executives, the HR leader should treat his people one step at a time, and he should do so by integrating culture-fit little-by-little into succession planning.

This is the view Rodel Lagahit, Prince Hypermart’s Senior Human Resources Manager, had towards HR. He shared how he and his team considered succession planning as “the cream of the crop” work they have been doing for the past three years now at Prince Hypermart. 

 

As a six sigma trained HR leader, Lagahit knew what he’s talking about. He’s been working in the field since 2004 after all; moving from one organization to the next. 

 

And according to him, succession planning at Prince is based on a cultural framework that’s unique to them. It’s not just something they impose on everyone, rather it’s something they build around their people. “I’m really confident on how we combined culture with our succession planning right from the start because we talked to everyone. We talked to all our employees all the way down the line—from rank and file to agency employees—to help us understand what really is the business for them. And from their perspective, we craft our culture,” he said. 

 

Certain values are then created from the now formed culture framework into the succession planning, and from here key competencies are drawn out. Lagahit said they’re very particular and consistent with these values, making sure to look for these in the company’s future leaders. Depending on what position a prospective leader can be assigned to, Lagahit and his team plan out a series of modular trainings that could span from as short as six months to as long as two years. 

 

This is very unique because while most companies solely build their succession planning on sourcing key competencies, Prince Hypermart is largely built on culture fit as well. According to a research study by Lori Fancher, the succession planning process is the most important responsibility of the HR leader. If there is a lack of organizational culture present in the process, the organization risks hiring talents—those in the executive levels especially—that do not meet the needs of the organization, and can hinder development strategies for the future. Without an insider’s perspective and culture, the current employees will continue to make the mistake of sourcing new recruits that do not fit well into the organization. 

 

As such, Lagahit believes this process in HR is like a wave. “If you’re trying to develop a new hire to move higher-up the organizational ladder through your succession program, you need to understand first that we’re talking about waves. You start with smaller waves, like cultural work attitudes and values seminars, then you move onto stronger waves like hard skills training and formation,” said Lagahit. The values found in their company culture are just some of the small waves he referred to. Some of these include having strong partnership and teamwork, resiliency to changes and challenges, high goal-driven attitudes, customer-centric unity, humility and openness, living out the owner’s mindset, and truthful transparency and honesty. 

 

And the way they test for these values in potential leaders to see if they fit into the cultural DNA of the company is done through steps—rather—waves, yet again. 

 

For new hires, Lagahit’s HR team conducts behavioral interviews. These are fashioned from the cultural perspective results they’ve gathered, and so most of the questions that they throw to these applicants are those defined in their core values, he said. If the candidate scores positive observable behavior, then that’ll be duly noted in Prince Hypermart’s recommendations. Then once someone’s hired, they undergo a series of canned trainings. After which subsequent trainings are provided when needed, so as to integrate the company’s culture fully into their employees.

 

Imagine what would happen if the current leaders left the company, and its HR leaders weren’t able to integrate their culture to those who will transition into new leadership? It would be chaos, I believe. If the succession program failed to slowly transition employees to fill the corporate gaps, operations to train and develop them could be more expensive and ineffective

 

Because while role defining, training and development, and organizational structure are important aspects to include in succession planning, culture fit is still the most critical. Spencer Stuart, a leadership consulting firm, found that 68% of newly hired executives fail within the first year of being with a new company that didn’t provide them the necessary culture fit. 

 

Before Lagahit came into Prince, he shared how succession was done simply on the basis of trust. The current leaders just trusted their gut feel and chose a person that’s close to them without even thinking if this person is capable of leading. 

 

“They just say, ‘If I can trust you to do well, I’ll put you in that position’. But it’s not supposed to be like that. You have to think if this person is the right person for your kind of business. We’re still talking about leadership after all,” said Lagahit.

 

And on top of this, Lagahit observed that it’s really so much easier for a company to thrive when culture is strongly considered. This is why they don’t just focus on their corporate employees, but their agency employees as well. “If an agency employee has been working for us, say, six months or a year, then we put them into a succession plan, at least for us it’s easier to mold them because we already understand who they are, how their performance is, and what they lack that we could help with,” he explained. “Most of our values are also very practical. In a sense that they’re all personal”. 

 

Lagahit’s HR team takes Prince Hypermart’s values very internally. He said it’s not like they just post what to do and what not to do on their corporate bulletin boards and on their 60 branches for everyone to literally act like “this or that,” he said. 

 

And what’s even better results from Lagahit’s triumphant succession planning is that the values they look for there, can also be integrated into their development of effective engagement activities. For example, he shared how their partnership and teamwork values opened up for them to create a weekly team huddle activity. This encouraged the departments in their company to foster a habit of open communication, which then contributes to better performance and productivity. While for the value of resiliency to changes and challenges made way to their employee shoutout initiative. Here, they make sure to post internally and externally their employees that’ve gone an extra mile of service. 

 

“I’m excited to see what will become of the company with our succession planning in place! I think the management executives are very much supportive and grateful for the efforts of the entire HR team. We’ve not only become a team that’s good at planning, but also with execution,” said Lagahit with a cheery tone in this voice. 

To get more insights from other HR leaders like Rodel Lagahit, please check out the full book, available for purchase here


The 50 - and other business books about the Philippines and Asia Pacific - will soon be streaming on Audiophile, our platform for exclusive Filipino audiobooks.

 

 

 

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