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Succession Planning

Effective succession planning for business readiness

Challenging economic conditions bring into sharp focus the need for organisations across all sectors to adopt strategies that help drive and improve their operational effectiveness and efficiency. Managing for today is important, managing for tomorrow is even more critical. It is time to take a long hard look at how prepared your organisation is to meet this challenge.

You should review the following critical questions in terms of your organisation’s current capabilities:

o    Have you identified key roles within your organisation?
o    Do you have the ability to fill those roles rapidly if required?
o    How much is your business at risk when employees move on?
o    Do you understand the ‘ripple effect’ caused by changes to your organisational structure?
o    Can you easily identify and develop, your future leaders?

Those who can answer positively will almost certainly have adopted a formalised Talent Management strategy within their organisation, with a robust Succession Planning approach providing a fundamental element of the overall strategy. Implementing such a comprehensive strategy for Talent Management enables organisations to take a significant stride towards not just planning for and shaping the future but also managing for the present. 

Succession Planning should be seen as a direct link between the Human Resources operation and the overall strategy of the organisation. Succession Planning is fundamentally about leadership, development and most importantly monitoring and measurement.

Adopting such a strategy enables organisations to align their current and future business needs with the aspirations, skills and competencies of individual employees. Not having the right people available to meet future needs can inhibit organisational growth.

So what benefits does an effective Succession Planning strategy provide? It empowers organisations to identify critical organisational roles, find rising stars and maximise employee potential.

An established Succession Planning process can, for example, significantly reduce the impact of the exit of a senior management team member by removing the cost of recruitment and on-boarding, and eliminating the potential impact from the months of lost time to which  those processes may lead. The external visibility of the effectiveness of this can also positively impact the way in which the outside world views the organisation, whether from a customer, stakeholder, partner or prospective employee perspective.

Succession Planning can positively impact an organisation in other ways, providing clarity of career paths, identifying key skills and competencies for future leaders to adopt and providing a value proposition to encourage employee retention, among others. All of these benefits can directly affect corporate culture, promoting a ‘virtuous circle’ of continuous learning and development as employees can directly identify the benefits of individual career planning and personal development.

To be effective, Succession Planning must draw together information and raw data from a wide variety of Talent Management sources – assessments, development plans, 360 reviews, employee CVs and more. Using this information to best advantage requires an organisation to proactively adopt the right internal processes not just initially, or occasionally, but on a continuous basis to create a culture that will foster employee engagement and alignment.

To be successful, Succession Planning must be an integral, corporate-wide, process designed to implicitly link organisational strategy to Talent Management. Moreover, the process must be continuous and cyclical, and preferably driven by defined and accepted competencies and skills that  support the requisite leadership behaviour across the organisation.

Talent Management, and more specifically Succession Planning, strategies should be supported by technology solutions that automate the collection and analysis of data from the disparate information sources available and then prompt for required actions in a timely and manageable fashion. Adopting the right technology to support your strategy strengthens the performance and profitability of your business by optimising employee deployment across the organisation.

Technology gives you the ability to more accurately plan ahead for both growth and business change scenarios. Integrating Performance Appraisal results with a Succession Planning module, for example, will allow you to use performance data to assess succession readiness and identify employee competency at the touch of a button. An analytical option, such as an interactive performance matrix, allows you to do more than just view data – you can work with the data to create succession scenarios and further analyse organisational needs to ensure you create the bench strength you need to move confidently into the future.

The ability to leverage, and build upon, the wealth of talent data available within an organisation, via a holistic approach to Talent Management, is a significant step towards becoming a successful, efficient and effective organisation for today and tomorrow. Identifying and developing those individuals within the organisation who can help shape the future is a huge stride forward. After all, Succession Planning is not just about planning for succession – it is all about ensuring operational success, now and in the future.

John Drakes, SumTotal

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