5 tips for succession planning


Succession planning is a key component in any successful organization’s future. We all long to assemble the perfect team, the "dream team" and sometimes we actually do – for a moment. Even if you have a "dream team" assembled, people retire or move on to other opportunities and you must be ready to adapt at a moment’s notice. Baby boomers are leaving the workforce at a rapid pace and leaving behind a wealth of vacant positions.

Do you have a strategy in place for when your top performers leave and walk out the door with all that knowledge, contacts and experience? Do you know who will fill their shoes when they are gone? If you answered "no" to either of these questions, you are leaving yourself open to the dreaded "talent gap" that so many companies face. Without a plan in place, upper management will inevitably move on at some point and you’ll be left with employees that are in no position to step up and assume leadership. Read on to start developing your succession planning initiative today.

Align your long term strategy with workforce planning. To determine how to effectively handle succession planning, you must first identify your long term vision and the resources necessary for achieving these goals. Use existing data and metrics to analyze what you are likely to need for a successful business initiative. For example, if you know what to expect from a salesperson, as an average rate of production, then divide the revenue target by that number and that tells you how many bodies you need on the ground. That number then impacts the costs and cash flow considerations of the business. This in turn helps with the timing and pace of growth, so that you don’t blow up the company.

Analyze talent gaps. Once you have determined the resources you will need to realize your vision for the future, search for potential shortfalls. Identify the talent pools needed for the long term and compare them to your current resources. Establish how your supply and demand may change over time and diagnose how you will handle this. It’s crucial to develop a business strategy that caters to future talent needs, not simple position replacement. Do you have better capacity to buy in talent or to grow talent.

Identify your top performers. Assess your top performers across all areas of your organization. This includes senior leadership all the way down to promising new hires. Turnover is expensive and can take up a lot of time, so ideally you will want to promote from within. Determine who has the most potential for a future within your organization and plan on moving them up accordingly. Conduct performance reviews and regularly communicate with members of your team at all levels to help determine competency and skill. Reassess any potential gaps once you have mapped out which employees have the option for upward mobility. Understand the 80/20 rule, where the top 20% of your people will represent 80% of your results. The trick is how to raise the average for the 80%, at the same time encouraging the top 20% to outperform.

Develop and implement your succession strategy. After you have identified your top performers, develop a strategy for how they will move up in the company over the years. Plan for coaching and mentoring initiatives to develop strong performers, along with increasing responsibility, conducting performance reviews, and organizing shadowing programs. Develop strategies for increasing retention and offering incentives to top performers. Recognize their efforts and compensate them well as you slowly expand their responsibilities. The idea here is to have them prepared to step up well before the need arises. Better to give away money, when you decide, than to be forced to do so to cover gaps and emergencies. Titles are also important tools to recognize people and never underestimate the status needs of your people.

Evaluate. Upon expanding your succession planning strategy and moving your top performers into place, implement a plan to track and monitor their performance. Listen to feedback from their supervisors, peers, and direct reports. Gather information about their performance from clients and customers. If they are underperforming, you may have to reevaluate your workforce planning strategy. If they are exceeding expectations, look for any potential talent gaps at higher levels and consider them for coaching and development. Reassess accordingly as company goals and resources change, this is a continuous process. If you promote performers into positions of management of others, absolutely provide them with training. Being a top gun and coaching others are different skill sets. Don’t expect people can do both well, through some natural organic process. Give them the training to understand the difference between being a top producer and leading a team of people with varying abilities.

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Send this article to the Tokyo Olymic planning committee.

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With all due respect "Dale Carnegie Training Japan", you cannot have succession planning without an integrated strategic management function, including a strategic human resource planning function.

What you've described in the article above is not succession planning, it is everyday HR - and finance-led HR to boot, which is a common mistake.

There's so much wrong with this article that I could be here all week, but suffice it to say that trying to summarize something as complex as integrated strategic HR management in a short article is always going to fail, because you have to make things so simple that they're untrue.

Perhaps if this was a series of articles, dealing first with how to set up a proper HR department it would have been better, but as it stands you've tried to leap in at the highest and most complex level of HR and as a result you've ended up delivering bad advice.

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