Ways To Get Succession Management Right

Sucess

Succession management has been on the top of every HR professional and business leader’s list for years. The aim of succession management is simple: to continually strengthen our internal employee capabilities as well as refine suitable pools of employees by tailoring their knowledge, skills and abilities for roles in the organization.

Succession management also ensures talent is developed and guarantees trained employees are ready and able to step into new roles. So why do we still fail to get it right?

Research conducted by the National Association of Corporate Directors shows that two-thirds of US public and private companies still admit that they have no formal CEO succession plan in place. We also know as HR professionals that succession management takes years, not months or days – so preparation is key.

Main reasons for failure

According to are experience, the main reasons for this are:

The listed talents are not ready
The role has shifted focus and priorities have changed
The decision-making committee has grown

This means we must again critically assess our succession management approach and do some things fundamentally differently. In these times of fast change, workforce planning becomes crucial. A smooth succession management process would ensure fast access to internal talents, open concrete career opportunities for employees and enable fast reaction to new business models.

Here are three ways to help get it right:

Involve all decision makers from the beginning

One important exercise is to carefully consider the full list of decision makers, and involve them all from the beginning. For example, very often the direct manager of the position is involved, while the next level manager, or Business Unit Leader, or Board member, is not. If 12 months later the direct position holder changes roles, there is nobody left in that organization who gave their explicit commitment in the beginning, which in turn reduces the likelihood the previously identified successor will be selected.

It should be very transparent to the successor once identified. Open lines of communication with potential candidates is important to minimize unexpected surprises. When potential successors participate in the process you can guarantee transparency and acceptance from the beginning to ensure a smooth transition process. The position holder should give clear commitment towards the direct manager and successor, and the direct manager should give clear commitment to help the successor in building and accomplishing a development plan that makes the person ready.

Focus on future skills

Invest in the development of employees focusing on future skills, as opposed to focusing on current role models only. Define future role profiles anticipating which competences and skills will be increasingly relevant in the future. Involve your business leaders in the process to ensure that it does not become an academic exercise. Once the key (three to five) future skills are identified, the direct managers of the identified successors should have an active role in building an individualized development plan that is targeted to fill the gap. Business wise, this makes management proactive and prepared!

Assign a sponsor from the decision making committee

One of the priorities for the decision making committee should be focused on identifying top talents in the organization. It is with this that the chosen executive sponsor should be committed in grooming these talents to develop in their career and ensuring their success.

In conclusion, succession management and planning, while not impossible, requires us as HR professionals, leaders, managers and executives to critically challenge ourselves, to review the impact that our succession management practices have and change the necessarily elements that are in our control. Being strategic influencers at the beginning of the process will yield succession plans that are more realistic and of true value to the business.