Pro Tips – Career Development and Succession Planning

Career Development and Succession Planning_top view of people at the meeting

Human resources professionals are always looking for the hottest trend or strategy to move talent within the organization.  Sometimes those moves are in the form of a promotion.  Some are lateral moves.  Others are more experiential in nature.  Often times, the desired outcome of such a move is to keep the talent in-house and not lose that man or women to a competitor.  Of course, the perceived talent/labor shortage has added a new component to that reality:  not only could an organization lose talent to a competitor within the same industry, but to a different industry entirely.

Sometimes, however, HR professionals find themselves looking back on some of the least popular strategies; some of the old favorites.  The two that come to mind are career development and succession planning.  If done right, one or both have the potential to retain the organization’s best and brightest talent.

Career Development and Succession Planning

The Definitions

Before getting into pro-tips for either strategy, it’s best to define each. 

Career development is the process that forms a person's work identity. It is a significant part of human development and spans over the individual's entire lifetime, beginning when the individual first becomes aware of how people make a living.

The Balance details career development further by saying, once a job is chosen the employee then has to get the necessary education and training for that career, find a job and the advance in the career once hired.

The same website defines succession planning as:

“…the process where an organization ensures that employees are recruited and developed to fill each key role within the company. In this process, you ensure that you will never have a key role open for which another employee is not prepared. This is also significant as you develop your talent bench strength within your organization.”

What is clear about the two is one certainly leads into the other as career development is all about defining what a worker wants to do and succession planning is the inevitable outcome of that development in that he or she becomes the next leader within their organization.


Career Development

So how can HR help retain employees from a career development standpoint?

  1. Start by goal setting. Employees who want to be successful will need assistance in setting goals. But that’s not enough.  It’s equally important to plan and achieve those goals.  Sometimes this includes strategies such as coaching and mentoring.
  2. Then leverage company programs. Some companies, not all, have formal programs for career development. From an HR perspective, it’s important to find those programs that can offer direction for an employee.  Sometimes, that comes in the form of a learning program.  Another suggestion might include a program that provides experiential learning opportunities or one that provides lateral moves as a means to gain new skills.
  3. Finally, career pathing. Another way HR can help with career development is through career pathing. This goes back to the idea of creating a plan.  HR can assist in this process by understanding the goals of the employee and then “charting a course” to help the employee achieve that goal.

Succession Planning

As previously mentioned, career development can certainly lead into succession planning especially as human resources defines which leadership roles need a succession plan in place.

  1. Once roles that need succession planning are selected, the first order of business is to create the talent pipeline. These are employees who will potentially take on the leadership role in the next two to three years.  Often times, these employees possess only some of the skills needed.
  2. Education and skills development become critical at this stage. As these potential successors plan to take on these leadership roles, identifying the skills they have and they skills they need to develop becomes the name of the game.  Then it’s all about making sure they achieve those skills.
  3. Finally, it’s about planning the transition and the time needed to successfully make the change. This important from an HR perspective because it’s necessary, in most cases, to conduct the transition while business operations continue.  This helps maintain operations at current levels and to keep all employees at ease during the change.

In summation

Often we hear that moving the company forward is the most important thing that can be done, but it’s usually from the standpoint of how can employees help move the company forward.  The beauty of these strategies is simply this:  the company moves forward because the employees forward.  It supports the idea that both employee and employer are inextricably linked.  Additionally, when employees move forward, they are more inclined to be loyal to the organization and stay as long as they feel invested in the company and the company in them.

Want to know more about succession planning?  Download our report:  Building a Global Succession Planning Strategy


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