September Call-Ups? One Good Way to Evaluate Your Team of the Future

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Sep 8, 2014

For those who aren’t big Major League Baseball (MLB) fans you probably don’t know what the “September Call-Up” or “Expanded Rosters” mean.

Each year on September 1, as the MLB season goes into its final month, the league allows teams to invite players from their minor league teams to join the club and the roster number expands from 25 to 40.

For teams who are out of the playoff race, this allows them to give some younger guys an opportunity to perform on a larger stage. For those in playoff races, or teams that have already solidified a playoff berth, the extra players allow them to rest some regulars. For playoff teams these extra 15 players can’t play in actual playoff games, only in the final regular season games.

A strategy suited for succession planning

OK Tim – why the hell should we care about Major League Baseball’s September Call-Ups?

In any HR shop I’ve ever worked in, or with any HR Pro I’ve ever had a conversation with, succession planning is always an issue HR Pros struggle with in their organizations. Many times sports shows us there is a way that it can be done. You just need to find a way to tailor it to your environment, and I think the MLB gives us a window to how a competitive organization attempts to get this done.

Succession is difficult and costly; there is no way around it. If your organization is truly trying to do succession planning and not spend money, it won’t be pretty and it probably won’t be effective.

To really know a person has the ability to step into someone’s shoes when they leave, you have to see them actually do the job. In most organizations this just isn’t an option.

How many of us have the ability to pull out a high performer from their current position, and put them into a new position, while the other person is still in that position? Not many of us! It’s just not a reality most of live in.

A chance to evaluate talent in new roles

Baseball’s September Call-Up is one strategy that you might be able to use within your organization. While putting someone full-time into a new position might not be something you could do, could you do it for 30 days?

Before telling me you can’t, what would you do it that same person had a medical issue and had to be hospitalized or home-bound for a month? You’d make it, you’d get by, that’s what we do in organizations. The team would rally and make it work.

So, giving someone a one month succession stint in a new potential role – full immersion – would actually give you some decent insight to whether or not the person could actually handle that role in the future, or at least show you some great development needs that they must have to ensure success.

Is this perfect? No – but that’s why it works.

A look at your team of the future

We don’t get perfect in HR – we get good enough and move on to the next fire. We don’t get million dollar budgets to formalize succession and have a bench full of high performing talent to just step in when someone leaves our organization. It’s our job to figure out succession, while we figure out how to keep the lights on at the same time.

I love the September Call-Up. It  gives me insight to the future of my team, shows me how someone performs in an environment that doesn’t pigeonhole them forever, and let’s me know if they show some potential for The Show!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.