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Toughest roles to fill aren’t always most senior, says Uber’s global hiring head

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“While a lot of companies do have a succession plan in place, in my opinion they’re not very effective,” he says. “There’s a traditional way of building succession lists – meaning you could have four people on a board, then a pipeline beneath them looking at who could and would be able to step up to the plate if needed. This is the method a lot of companies use.”

Panchasra likens it to a spreadsheet exercise – useful in theory but not in practice. What tends to happen when a leader leaves, he tells HRD, is that the number of people on that initial succession list who are actually successful in securing that role is very small. This is because a leadership departure gives an organization the opportunity to rethink and reshape that role.

“Should this role have the responsibilities it always did? Should we carve out certain teams? Do we need a different skill set? What were the gaps and how can we fill them with the next person? Even though that initial exercise is somewhat useful, in reality, when it comes to that position being vacant, it’s a different role with a different scope and a different level of responsibility. So you’re almost starting again.”

‘Does a chief marketing officer have to know marketing?’

It’s this idea of skill-first recruiting that’s gaining momentum in 2023. The idea that you’re recruiting for the actual abilities a role demands – not necessarily the experience or even career background. As Panchasra’ s legally led chief of staff hire proved, you don’t always have to recruit someone with a picture-perfect CV.

“You’re looking at who in the organization has the ‘currency’,” says Panchasra. “By that I mean who’s been at the organization a long time, who has the network, who knows how to lead? Who is known?

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