5 Succession Planning Optimization Secrets You Can’t Miss

Creating a succession plan for your organization can be a daunting task to complete.

If you already have a plan in the works, congratulations! Where do you go next? It’s important to continually implement and optimize your strategy. While succession planning can seem like a “set it and forget it” type of system, this is not the case! Creating a plan and putting the steps into practice are completely different obstacles. Now that your succession plan is created and ready to implement, let’s go over a few keys to getting the most out of your strategy.

Determine Necessary Skills

Determining the skills needed to fill certain upper-management positions should be a part of your succession planning strategy. However, it’s also important to continuously adapt and modify this aspect of the plan. While many core responsibilities of management positions won’t change, some require slight modification as time evolves.

Did you know only 54% of organization boards were grooming a specific successor, and 39% had no viable internal candidates who could immediately replace the CEO if needed? Knowing which skills to focus on when cultivating a prospect for any management position is crucial, and this will factor into how successful the candidate may be.

A good way to assess the necessary skills needed for an employee to move up is to perform a skills gap analysis. What skills already exist in your workforce, and what skills do you need to develop in order to meet your goals? This allows organizations to establish which training or requirements it needs in order to fill those areas where a skills gap is evident.

This type of analysis can also help inform your greater strategic workforce planning efforts. Because the workplace is an environment that is constantly changing, evolving, and adapting to new needs and standards, it’s important for an organization’s talent development objectives to think ahead about who you’re hiring and training within the context of how they can help you achieve your company’s objectives over time, and what roles they might one day be able to fill—like ones in leadership.

Obtaining an overview of the entire organization, top to bottom, delves deeper into the company’s make up. Get a feel for specific individuals across teams, departments, and what skills each team or individual requires training in order to fill any gaps on the path to leadership.

Assess Your Current Talent Pool

The purpose of succession planning is to find suitable individuals to develop into future leaders of your organization. What better place to begin your search than within your own organization? Promoting leaders from within has a success rate of 70-80%. That success rate drops to 50-55% for external leadership hires. Developing leaders internally takes time and effort, but these candidates are more likely to be successful than external candidates.

Focusing on high-potential workers lets you channel more resources and coaching toward those employees with the greatest promise. The risk is that you overlook great people and alienate and frustrate the rest of the employees, which can impact morale and turnover.

A key aspect of understanding your talent pool is to view your workforce within the context of the organization’s future goals:

  • Where does leadership want the company to be in 5 years? Where is the organization headed?
  • What’s on the short-term horizon?
  • How can the organization achieve their goals given the current talent pool? What skills need to be developed in order to find the right strategy to get there?
  • Which key business areas does the organization lack the right training resources and knowledge?

Develop Based On Skill Set And Potential

Having done the groundwork of assessing your current talent, the ultimate goal is to get the right people with the right skills, knowledge, and attributes into the right jobs at the right time. Therefore, an effective development process is still necessary to ensure equality of opportunity both for people within and outside of your current talent pool.

While some employees may require additional training and development, others might benefit from cross-departmental exposure and assignments. Work with the prospect to determine the appropriate course of action. The end result of taking the time to do this is that people will be promoted into high-level positions based on merit and whether or not they’re ready rather than the length of employment or current job role.

Instead of focusing on only high-performers, look, too, for those employees who exhibit high potential. High-performers are easy to spot, but those with high potential can often be more nuanced, though equally as important to find. Employees with high potential have an aptitude for their innate abilities and possess a future capacity to make a major impact.

Look for less obvious traits that demonstrate competency for future roles like change management or learning capabilities. Maybe they are low performers today, but with the right training and resources, will they be tomorrow’s capable leader? It can be difficult to assess what makes an effective manager, so build out a profile of what a good leader does and must understand and look for employees who fit the bill. If they have high potential, the performance will come with the right succession plan in place.

Implement Your Company’s Vision

This sort of insight indicates growth aspirations, who your target markets are and the types of services you’ll offer. All of which are critical as you think about how to develop (and deploy) your employees over the next few years.

Including potential successors in strategy conversations will help them acquire planning and leadership skills, as well as a broad vision of the organization and its objectives. The vision and mission clearly indicate the direction your company is heading. If you stress the importance of these items with potential leaders early on, it is likely they will adapt to the leadership role quickly.

Involve Your Entire Organization In The Succession Plan

Considering 80% of CEO appointees have never served in a chief executive role before, your organization probably has executive-level talent ready to be developed. Who better to mentor these prospects than the leaders currently filling these executive roles? Involving managers and leaders at all levels throughout the company is also an advantage because these individuals often know where the hidden talent lies within the organization.

Company culture can help set the tone for a succession plan. When culture and succession work together, high-potential employees will already have an understanding of their influence as they prepare to fill key positions. The flow between top and bottom fosters an environment that prepares employees to grow into positions of leadership and bring the existing culture with them along the way.

Like any form of planning, the succession type isn’t all about predicting the future or even being prepared for it. Instead, it is about creating a future that the organization wants and needs. The steps above are meant to be an outline for your organization to put your succession planning efforts into action. Sign up here for a demo.

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Author: Beth Thornton

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