The Achilles Heel of Succession Planning

In Organizational Development by Evelyn Rogers0 Comments

Scott Scanlon’s post on “Succession Planning an ‘Urgent” Concern of Top HR Leaders” states that leadership succession and speed of development are primary challenges today for HR leaders. The lack of preparedness for succession planning exposes an “Achilles Heel” of the process—-limited use of talent management tools and processes. There has been tremendous research since the 1980s on how to develop and grow the best talent (e.g. 70% job experiences, 20% people, 10% courses). However, we constantly see surveys reporting that organizations are unable to effectively leverage this research in their management of talent. In a small study conducted by E. Rogers Associates in 2013, there was:

  • a wide variation in terms of who was included in the talent management process
  • a wide variation in the tools to identify and discuss high potentials….most using subjective methods
  • tracking of talent data was limited and most often not used once inputted into a system
  • the follow through and consistency of next steps for those identified as high potentials varied and limited data analytics tracking high potentials over time

There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to succession planning, and organizations have to be flexible and adopt a process that suits the particular needs of the company. Research has shown that there are best practices for succession planning.

  • Assess the company’s strategic needs
    To devise an effective succession plan, there must be well articulated strategic corporate plan for the short, medium and long term. The company’s strategic goals should drive the company’s succession and talent planning efforts.
  • Choose selection criteria
    The criteria should include specific qualifications and capabilities necessary to successfully handle foreseeable issues and events affecting the company. For example, if the company’s future strategy includes expanding into a new line of business, the organization needs to consider how do we build the knowledge and skills through job experiences for that industry in our high potentials today and in the near future.
  • Continuously develop internal talent
    An important component of a company’s successful succession planning process is the continuous development and promotion of the company’s strongest employees. Following their periodic evaluations of the internal talent pool as compared to the selection criteria, professional development plans for the high potentials to address any shortcomings in their skills or competencies should be frequently updated and most importantly, evaluated for success.
  • Identify potential external candidates as needed
    Although it is not always necessary, a company may decide to conduct a market search for potential external candidates to increase their talent pool or “bring in early” someone with skills and knowledge in an area that will be critical in the long term. Turning to the outside market could provide a benchmark against which to measure the company’s internal talent.

Bottom-line: HR leaders know what to do, but somehow we are not influencing organizations to make this happen! 

Leave a Comment