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Selecting Top Leadership in Manufacturing Organizations

February 28, 2020

I was recently talking to a manufacturing client who wanted to promote from within their organization, which for the most part, I think is a good idea because you show your current employees that you really value them and want to see them grow. However, the process this particular client follows currently is to use performance scores to make their promotion decisions. While it is important to take proficiency at the current job into account when making a promotion decision, that is not the only thing that should be considered. Specifically, if you just promote your “best guy” from the line, they may not have any leadership skills! This is probably why, if you ask most people if they have ever had a bad boss, their answer is "yes." It’s unfortunate, but true.

So, how do you select and promote top leadership in manufacturing organizations?

manufacturing leadersThe answer is to design a selection process that utilizes both performance scores as well as leadership assessments. The performance scores will tell you how good an individual is at their current job and the leadership assessment will tell you how good their leadership skills are. The leadership assessments should be selected based on the results of a job analysis. Meaning, if the job analysis indicates that "self-awareness” and "motivating others" are important components of the leadership role, then your selection assessment should assess those skills. For higher-level leadership assessments (e.g., supervisors and directors), it is also recommended to include assessments such as role plays or in-baskets (rather than only including an online assessment). These types of assessments simulate real work activities (i.e., talking to a subordinate or sending emails). Simulations in tandem with online assessments add to the robustness of measurement and help ensure the process is valid, fair, and selecting the right candidates from the line into a leadership role.

So how should you score all these assessments?

The scoring of this process could be designed in a few different ways (e.g., using a hurdled approach, a compensatory approach, or a modified compensatory approach). If a hurdle approach is selected, the performance scores should be the first hurdle. Meaning, that if candidates don’t do well on the selection portion, they won’t be eligible to take the leadership assessment. Another way to approach this is to have candidates complete all steps in the selection process and then combine their results into an overall score.

What will candidates think if you change the leadership selection process?

Employees will accept changes to the process as long as they are fair, efficient, and produce good leaders. The emphasis here is the fairness component. If the new process is not implemented consistently, employees will push back.

An additional measure that can be taken to create buy-in when implementing a new leadership promotion process is to involve employees in the job analysis. Their involvement helps them feel they own part of the process and will result in a more favorable outcome. Whether it be less push back, more job analysis information to inform the selection procedures, or simply showing you value their feedback, you will be glad you asked for their opinions.

Good to Great Leadership

Christa Bupp, PhD Christa Bupp, PhD is a Consultant based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI. She provides client support across many different industries with a primary focus on manufacturing. Christa is passionate about making clients happy through the implementation of various selection tools. She has expertise in the areas of research and development, assessment design, data analysis, and validation.