Succession Planning

With a backdrop of skills shortages particularly at leadership and business critical roles such a technical experts succession planning is now more important than ever.
This art focuses on identifying and growing talent to fill future positions seamlessly.
This article will look at approaches to succession planning as well how it’s changed. It explores the relationship between succession planning and talent management programmes, investigating the balance needed when recruiting internal versus external talent and concludes with a useful checklist.

Approaches to succession planning

All organisations need to be able to find people with the right skills to fill key positions.
Traditionally, large companies ran confidential and top-down succession schemes aimed at finding internal candidates for key roles and putting in place relevant career plans. However, growing uncertainty, increasing speed of change and flatter structures, succession planning of this sort has declined in popularity not least as it often failed to take account of non-leadership roles – those technical experts I mentioned earlier are also critical to success.
Modern succession planning has a broader vision, greater openness and diversity, and closer links to an inclusive “whole organisation” talent management approach. This covers not just succession but also the processes to attract, recruit, identify, develop, engage, retain and deploy talented people both internal and external

Internal versus external people

There are valid reasons to recruit externally, especially at senior levels, to bring new ideas and approaches. However, many organisations seem to rely either too much on promoting internal talent or hiring external talent suggesting that it’s difficult to find the right balance.
It’s often argued against hiring external talent as the lead in time to cultural understanding can be too long versus the argument that someone new can bring a fresh approach and new thinking.
The ideal situation is to get this balance right by engaging inhouse or external experts in succession and talent management to get a clear picture of what internal talent is available at what cost (salary and development) versus what the availability and cost of external talent is. This process should be guided by the each organisations culture and values to ensure lasting success.

Informal vs formal approaches

Participants in succession planning programmes may be selected either by informal methods, such as conversations with managers, or by more formal techniques, such as the performance review process and assessing competencies.
The use of competency frameworks is popular with many organisations and are a useful starting point in evaluating potential for succession.

Openness, fairness and diversity

Transparency is key and previously confidential nature of the succession planning process has declined and advertising of relevant roles both internally and externally is more common.
Fairness must go with openness and all candidates must be assessed objectively. Succession planning processes are common in many large organisations to review and challenge decisions and advise on improving the process.
All employees need to feel empowered to grow or they may opt out of the succession process. The benefits of inclusion and diversity are now widely recognised and so must also be taken into account.
Modern succession planning is a two way street, just as the organisation has needs candidates need to make their own career decisions and to balance career and family responsibilities.

Succession Planning Checklist

o   Determine the mission critical roles for your organisation

  • Get to know the role better
  • Understand the organisation culture better

o   Identify current and potential talent within the company

  • Identify expected skills through competency model
  • Identify potential talent through performance management and selection processes
  • Identify potential talent through the recruitment process

o   Identify talent gaps

  • Determine current and future talent requirements
  • Compare requirements with current internal and external talent
  • Identify current talent flight risks
  • Identify succession plans for those at risk of leaving
  • Look at talent development pipeline
  • Identify skills gaps and time required to fill them

o   Develop succession plans for critical roles

  • Create backfill strategies
  • Add multiple candidates to succession shortlist
  • Display multiple talent profiles side by side to determine best fit quickly
  • Track candidate readiness

o   Develop a skills roadmap for future talent

o   Develop retention programmes for current and future talent

CFR provides succession planning services through it’s global network which covers 32 countries with 350 consultants.

Article written by Robert Ferry, CFR Global Executive Search Ireland

Photo source: Pexels

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