Career Development & Succession Planning: The Need & The Basics

Ashehad Faizy

Organizations are always facing the alignment juggle—that is, alignment between business strategy and talent management strategy. The question is how to integrate the short and long term objectives, values and culture with actual staff profile and development plans in order to come up with the desired staff attributes and profiles. The current integrated approach in HR to align with business needs is by giving importance to talent management. The aim is to foster a process of creating a leadership capability across business functions and to identify key leadership success factors.

In the Middle East, succession planning is only now gaining momentum with very few international organizations looking into this as an option after the recession. The reason for this is due to the exodus of an expatriate workforce’s cheap and abundant availability. But organizations are realizing that this is now a very efficient and successful way of retaining top talent and stopping brain drain, compared to ever increasing hiring costs.

Succession planning may be an expected practice in an organization, but its absence is more of a curse than its presence is a blessing. It results in the retention of high potential staff and builds internal staff capabilities to meet business needs, risk management/mitigation, etc. Of course there are challenges presented, too. Like any change, it is sometimes resisted; diversity of people, globalization, and recognizing best from poor performance also present their own difficulties. But effective talent acquisition and management practices can resolve these challenges to a great extent.
In 1970, more emphasis was given to individual career planning than on group HR planning. It started with an occupational choice to job assignment and to performance and then finally to his retirement. Now this has changed the way we attract people, match individual needs with talent opportunities, help individuals perform effectively and prepare them for a satisfying retirement. The main inputs for a career management process starts with individual self-assessment, organizational assessment, communicating career opportunities with staff and, finally, counseling staff in setting realistic and achievable goals.

Enough ground work – what is succession planning?

Succession planning is the strategic and deliberate effort to develop competencies in potential employees through specific and targeted learning, job rotation and training in order to fill key positions. It’s an effort to ensure leadership continuity, business continuity and risk management.

This is not a one-time project— it is an organization’s journey to constant change planning, identifying gaps in talent pool and nurturing future leaders. This should be done with the mindset that the organization supersedes individuals.

The ROI of succession planning

The benefits of succession planning include a low turnover rate of employees, filling executive positions internally, driving employee satisfaction and the early identification of potential leaders. Succession planning also helps an organization to integrate them into the mainstream learning and development (L&D) programs. Even with all the benefits, most organizations lack funding for such change management practices because it is time consuming. Also with the lack of effective assessment tools, inability to identify future needs and disinterest from the management can hinder the implementation of such a program.

Implementing business succession planning

To adopt the best practices in SP, we always need board and CEO-level support. If the management does not believe in this program, it cannot reach its objectives. It starts from top and has to be integrated or broken down to functional departments and should involve the potential leaders as process co-owners. This should always be a transparent program with communication done as openly as possible. The initial process starts with the development of assessment tools and then in defining proper selection criteria. Once this is accomplished, a talent pool of prospective leaders can be identified. They should be set on the journey of continuous and constant development with clear objectives set to them. These are to be monitored and measured periodically.

In conclusion, SP or career development for employees and for organizations sets not only a clear path of progression, but also enables the entity to move forward. We often hear about people moving from one organization to another, but we seldom hear about organizations without a leader. The need for leaders in the current market place has become a necessity more than ever-- attribute it to SP or not. Succession planning, as such, should always focus on critical positions of an organization. At the end of the day, all businesses are prone to different types of risks – but the winner is always the one who knows how to mitigate these risks to a minimum.