Critical Succession Planning

Critical Succession Planning_young businessman jumping over gap

The current talent environment is one most HR professionals have not seen before.  There are more jobs than there are skilled people to fill those positions.  And it’s forecasted to get worse before it gets better.  Between 2017 and 2027, a talent shortage of 8.2 million US workers could exist according to Manpower.

That makes succession planning all the more important for the HR professionals doing their best to minimize the impact on their respective companies.  The problem is succession planning is not always seen as paramount strategy.

In an HR Exchange Network survey, we asked respondents this question:  does your company have a formal succession planning strategy that focuses on long-term goals, hiring, and talent retention?  The results were split right down the middle.

critical succession planning

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Critical Succession Planning

When succession planning is approached as a strategy, most HR professionals’ gut reaction is to attach it to C-Suite and/or leadership positions only.  And there is substantial reason for this action.  People in these roles are the ones most responsible for charting the path of the company; setting strategic business goals of the future. 

When considering, however, the current talent environment it becomes clear that a succession planning strategy must include those positions not typically considered; positions such as managers and line executives.  Why?  While these individuals aren’t directly responsible for setting the business strategy, they are the ones tasked with making sure it is implemented.  Not planning for these roles can weaken the ability of a company to carryout its short and long term business goals.

Critical Succession Planning Components

So, what makes up a critical succession planning strategy?

First, HR must understand the organizational goals of the business over the next 6 months.  They must also understand goals for one, two and five years.  This is important because HR needs to be able to assess the skill set of the current workforce and then define what skills they need moving forward.  This is critical when looking at and planning for talent development.

It’s not just about understanding the business goals of their respective companies, HR must be able to understand and follow current and future trends of their company’s industry.  Again, this is key to defining the skills needed for succession candidates.

The second component is an assessment of employee engagement.  It goes without saying an engaged employee is a much more productive employee.  The engaged employee also makes for a stronger succession candidate and overall critical succession planning strategy.

Finally, HR must be able to assess their current hiring strategies, specifically those related to filling an open leadership position.  External hiring can be a lengthy process.  It is certainly a costly one.  A succession planning strategy can wipe out the lengthy process and can cut back on costs.

10 Key Steps for Succession Planning

According to a white paper written by Rothwell & Associates, Inc. and published on the HR Exchange Network, there are ten key steps for succession planning. 

Step 1.  Clarify the senior leaders’ expectations and preferences for a succession planning strategy.  Without this clarification, the strategy is susceptible to failure.

“The success of any succession planning program is directly and inexorably tied to one basic premise - the respect that the CEO and line executives have in the Chief HR Officer.  If the CHRO has earned that respect by being an equal business partner; the program will succeed or fail based on the validity and usefulness of its content.  Conversely, if the CHRO does not have that respect, the program is doomed to failure and will be considered by line management as nothing more than another HR paperwork exercise.” Jack Bucalo – HR Exchange Network Advisory Board Member


Step 2.  Establish competency models either by talent pool or by department.

Step 3.  Conduct assessments for potential succession candidates.

Step 4.  Establish or reorganize the company’s performance management system.

Step 5.  Assess individual potential success for higher levels of responsibility.

Step 6.  Establish ongoing individual development planning at regular intervals.

Step 7.  Implement individual development plans for succession candidates.

Step 8.  Create the talent inventory.  This helps find talent on short notice.

Step 9.  Establish accountability for succession planning strategy.

Step 10.  Evaluate the results of the succession planning strategy.

For more information, you can download the white paper here.

Benefits of Succession Planning

United States founding father Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

critical succession planning_benjamin franklin

Courtesy:  Stock Photo Secrets

That directly applies to succession planning.  HR professionals and company leadership as a whole spend a lot of time planning for change.  The problem with change is that it can happen with a snap of the fingers.  Critical succession planning, at least where talent is concerned, can help bridge the gap between losing a critical leader and replacing that leader.

Succession planning requires companies, as mentioned above, to identify those positions that require long tem planning.  It also forces the necessity of identifying those internal succession candidates, assessing their skills and planning their development so when the time comes to assume a new role, the candidate is ready.

When an HR professional is able to assess all of these pieces, a company is able to, with some accuracy, plan for the future.  It can help the company grow with purpose and can help close any gaps that may impede that growth.

Want to know more about building a global succession planning strategy?  Click here to download our succession planning report.