Suc­ces­sion plan­ning key pri­or­ity

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - COLLEEN COATES

THE base­ball term bench strength has be­come a metaphor for smart suc­ces­sion plan­ning. To a ball team, bench strength means the skill level and num­ber of qual­ity play­ers avail­able to sub­sti­tute dur­ing any given in­ning. In busi­ness, it’s about the depth, the ver­sa­til­ity and the com­pe­tence of high-po­ten­tial lead­ers who are ready to be called up to fill se­nior-level va­can­cies in the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

For a com­pany to build its bench strength, it needs to in­cor­po­rate a suc­ces­sion plan­ning process into its tal­ent man­age­ment ef­forts. But ac­cord­ing to one new re­port, two-fifths of em­ploy­ers have never used suc­ces­sion plan­ning. Less than one in four or­ga­ni­za­tions (23 per cent) have a for­mal process for suc­ces­sion plan­ning in place; fewer than one in three (31 per cent) opt for a more in­for­mal sys­tem.

There is no short sup­ply of ex­cuses why em­ploy­ers have skirted the is­sue: suc­ces­sion plan­ning is not a day-to-day pri­or­ity for their busi­ness; the com­pany does not have the proper re­sources to de­vote to the process; staff turnover rates are low; or the size and na­ture of the work­force makes suc­ces­sion plan­ning ir­rel­e­vant.

In re­al­ity, even the most re­sis­tant busi­ness lead­ers know they must plan for the fu­ture. Five years ago, the first baby boomers reached the age of 60, mean­ing there is no way to avoid the fact that the tal­ent pool of knowl­edge and skilled work­ers will soon be in­suf­fi­cient to meet the needs of em­ploy­ers.

Iden­ti­fy­ing, as­sess­ing and se­lect­ing tal­ent to suc­ceed your man­agers must be­come a re­newed pri­or­ity for em­ploy­ers. Sus­tain­able suc­ces­sion plans, and not merely re­place­ment plan­ning, should be an on­go­ing busi­ness prac­tice. Done right, it will en­sure that your or­ga­ni­za­tion has a strong bench of tal­ent ready to be called upon and pre­pare it to with­stand the po­ten­tial cri­sis when there are lead­er­ship de­par­tures.

Suc­ces­sion plan­ning is about in­vest­ing in the fu­ture to­day. To be­gin the process, con­sider these six stages of de­vel­op­ment:

Stage 1: De­ter­mine the ex­tent of your pend­ing lead­er­ship short­age. This eval­u­a­tion starts by rec­og­niz­ing key po­si­tions and roles within your or­ga­ni­za­tion. Re­view job de­scrip­tions, gather any avail­able HR sta­tis­tics re­gard­ing sched­uled and pos­si­ble un­sched­uled at­tri­tion and look at your ex­ist­ing re­place­ment strate­gies.

Stage 2: Build a com­pe­tency model fo­cus­ing on crit­i­cal suc­cess fac­tors and ex­pected fu­ture chal­lenges. This model, which de­fines your tal­ent re­quire­ments for the next five years, should flow di­rectly from your cor­po­rate strate­gic vi­sion. This ensures the com­pe­ten­cies you seek in fu­ture lead­ers stays aligned with or­ga­ni­za­tional val­ues.

Stage 3: Iden­tify who your fu­ture lead­ers are and where the com­pe­tency gaps may be. Along with con­duct­ing an ex­ter­nal as­sess­ment of your tal­ent re­sources, you can ef­fec­tively ap­praise em­ploy­ees’ lead­er­ship po­ten­tial through mea­sur­able per­for­mance re­views and feed­back from man­agers, peers, sub­or­di­nates and clients.

Stage 4: Es­tab­lish an in­di­vid­ual ca­reer de­vel­op­ment plan for high per­form­ers. Ask your peo­ple about their as­pi­ra­tions and com­pare their ca­reer streams to the needs of the com­pany. This will aid in eval­u­at­ing any skills, knowl­edge or abil­ity deficits, which can be al­le­vi­ated through ad­di­tional train­ing, job ro­ta­tions, spe­cial as­sign­ments and op­por­tu­ni­ties to men­tor along­side se­nior ex­ec­u­tives.

Stage 5: Se­lect and place po­ten­tial suc­ces­sors into tran­si­tional roles and sup­port their ef­forts. Once you have iden­ti­fied and in­vested in your top peo­ple, you want to en­sure you re­tain them. Do not over­look their valu­able con­tri­bu­tions. Com­pen­sate hard work and de­sir­able be­hav­iour through your re­wards and recog­ni­tion pro­gram as well as by pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment.

Stage 6: Con­tinue mon­i­tor­ing the suc­ces­sion plan­ning sys­tem and com­mu­ni­cate, com­mu­ni­cate, com­mu­ni­cate. Along with keep­ing watch on any man­age­ment gaps, your goal should be to in­te­grate ca­reer man­age­ment strate­gies into the cor­po­rate cul­ture. Once em­ploy­ees re­al­ize they are part of a long-term plan, it helps them to see the op­por­tu­nity within their reach if they are will­ing to nur­ture their ca­reers within the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

In base­ball, the best teams suc­ceed be­cause of their de­vel­oped bench strength and the skil­ful move­ment of ex­cep­tional tal­ent. The same ap­plies to any busi­ness or­ga­ni­za­tion want­ing to en­sure lead­er­ship con­ti­nu­ity and the suc­ces­sive abil­ity to swing for the fences far into the fu­ture.

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— With re­port­ing by Bar­bara Chabai

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