The current hkp/// Talent Pulse Survey "Self-nomination in talent management" reveals that more and more often German companies are using "self-nomination", a system whereby staff take on more responsibility for their own development and ultimately their careers. spoke to the author Frank Gierschmann. What exactly do you mean by "self-nomination" in talent management?
Frank Gierschmann: Self-nomination is a method in which individual employees put themselves forward, on their own initiative, for development programs, succession planning or vacant positions. Companies use it alongside – or instead of – the traditional system in which managers nominate individuals. It's an alternative to the old ways of identifying and recruiting talent within companies. And it can be used not just for filling vacancies but also for applying for talent pools and consideration in succession planning. What are the key findings of the current survey of companies in Germany?
Frank Gierschmann: The answers given by participants in the survey – 38 medium-sized and large companies in Germany – confirm the shift in initiative from managers to individual staff members when it comes to filling key positions. More and more firms encourage their staff to take a proactive role in making their next career step within the organization itself. Respondents believe that self-nomination primarily helps them discover hidden talent in the firm and so build a broad, diverse reservoir of potential candidates for specialist and management positions. Is self-nomination a new idea?
Frank Gierschmann: Yes and no. When it comes to recruiting, of course, it's normal for people to put themselves forward. But almost half of the companies in the study say they now use self-nomination in talent management. The most important type of self-nomination involves employees applying for vacancies that are advertised internally. Do firms specifically target certain groups of employees or do they get all employees to use self-nomination?
Frank Gierschmann: Self-nomination can be used for all groups of employees. But at present it is mainly used for middle management. The further up the organization you go, the less common it is. You've talked about the main reason for using self-nomination. Are there other reasons, too?
Frank Gierschmann: The overwhelming majority of companies in the study use self-nomination as a way of making staff take on greater responsibility for their own development. This is in line with the current trend towards firms demanding that employees show greater commitment to their own career, while the company offers them greater opportunities for development. Companies also hope to discover hidden potential within their ranks – and to prevent managers from hiding such talent. Managers hiding talent? That sounds unlikely …
Frank Gierschmann: It actually happens quite often. It's understandable that managers would want to keep really good people in their own teams, even if that's not what is best for the firm as a whole. It happens even in companies with very mature performance management processes. In fact, it may even be more likely to occur in such companies, as managers are afraid of losing their best people as soon as the company finds out about them. Do companies have any reservations about self-nomination?
Frank Gierschmann: Companies in the survey who do not use self-nomination said that exclusive nomination by managers worked well and that no other approach was necessary. They also mentioned objections raised by various stakeholders, such as the board, HR directors or the workers' council. Plus they expressed fears that self-nomination could lead to conflicts between line managers and self-nominating employees. Some companies are also afraid of the extra cost in terms of administration, for example from having to dealing with too many applications. In our experience, however, the costs tend to be overestimated, as significantly fewer employees actually put themselves forward than is initially assumed. Other concerns are that line managers will lose their influence over the process, or that staff who nominate themselves but are subsequently rejected will be disappointed. What surprised us was that hardly any companies said that self-nomination ran contrary to their corporate culture. What is the experience of companies with self-nomination so far?
Frank Gierschmann: So far it has been consistently positive. Only a minority of respondents expressed criticism of this new approach to talent management. Companies that use self-nomination report that the option of self-nomination results in more candidates being available… …which is one of the key objectives.
Frank Gierschmann: What is more, not only does the number of candidates grow, so too does their diversity. In many companies, employees' initiative in shaping their own professional development has also increased, thereby meeting one of the main goals of self-nomination. In our view, self-nomination is also a way to increase the proportion of women in specialist and management positions. For companies that are serious about advancing women within their ranks, self-nomination represents an additional way to identify and nominate more female staff with potential.
Mr. Gierschmann, thank you very much.
Author Frank Gierschmann

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