Five Steps for Effective Succession Planning

When it comes to succession planning, HR managers are under pressure to build a strong, effective and sustainable leadership pipeline.  However, this is easier said than done. By Greg Belkin.

Many HR managers are challenged to ensure their succession strategy is flexible enough to meet the needs of the organization, the employee, and any changes within the industry in which it competes. In fact, according to research by Bersin & Associates, only 23% of organizations say their talent discussions are “always” coordinated with their overall business strategy.

With this in mind, Rania Stewart, Peoplefluent’s Senior Product Manager for performance management and succession planning, delivered a webcast on workforce succession management trends, priorities, challenges and opportunities titled: “Workforce Succession for Strategic Business Impact”.

Rania leveraged her direct experience as an HR practitioner and as a long time user of HR technology to discuss how to tear down barriers to effective succession execution, including:

  1. Establish leadership accountability for a talent pipeline. Motivate organizational leaders to take responsibility for the selection, development and ascent of their people. Ensure leaders are engaged in the succession process and hold them accountable for their involvement. Ensure succession is a regularly occurring topic of discussion in managerial meetings.
  2. Extend succession beyond traditional boundaries of control. Establish a succession planning process / talent program that is focused on all key and relevant parts of the organization, including mid management and temporary, contract and contingent labor.
  3. Establish a culture of transparency. Ensure your leaders know their people, their team’s interests and the opportunities open to them. Establish a dialogue with employees regarding career aspirations and institutionalize this conversation as part of an optimized performance management process.
  4. Focus on targeted development. Ensure an adequate level of investment and commitment to development for succession/talent pool candidates. Assess, prioritize and individualize development needs for each candidate or employee.
  5. Formulate holistic and diversified intervention tools. Don’t focus exclusively on a targeted successor/talent development program.  Diversify to achieve your business-aligned succession goals. Ensure that the underlying assumptions critical to the success of your succession goals are documented. (For example, taking for granted that a highly valued succession plan candidate will still be with the company when the opportunity arises.)

No doubt about it, establishing a strong, effective and scalable leadership pipeline is difficult. According to Bersin & Associates, the majority (52%) of HR executives indicate use of “traditional succession planning” versus 12% who indicate their succession efforts are “integrated” with other systems.  However, organizations that take succession to the next level are likely to achieve a crucial competitive differentiator and will be more prepared for turbulence in a rapidly changing economy.

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