Who is our next leader? (The importance of Succession Planning)

The job market is in a state of flux and employee turnover sometimes reaches alarming rates. When the exits happen at the mid and senior levels, it could throw the entire functioning of an organisation into disarray. That is why human resources departments place an enormous emphasis on sourcing and developing the talent pool to successfully meet present and future business challenges. Succession planning is the process whereby an organization ensures that employees are identified and to fill specific skill-based roles in the company.

Traditionally, succession planning has been viewed as aimed at filling the C-Level positions in an organization. However, given the growing challenges of managing today’s complex workforce, maintaining a talent pool of middle to senior management has become just as important as ensuring a plan for the topmost leadership role.  Why is succession planning so crucial? Wouldn’t it make sense to recruit a qualified resource laterally? Not really, since developing an existing talent proves to be more cost-effective and results in creating a more effective and readily available leadership pipeline.

A well- thought succession plan is vital for the growth of an organization, simply because the in-house talents identified will eventually be responsible for ensuring the organization’s success. This process entails an overall development of employees at every level to ensure that they are able to effectively handle current and future responsibilities.

Let’s look at a few steps that succession planning entails:

  • Identification: An effective succession planning begins with identifying critical positions and understanding their behavioural and technical fitment criteria in detail. Once the criteria have been identified, it is essential to select candidates from the talent pool who possess those attributes. An efficient way to do this is to involve team leaders and reporting managers since they know their team inside out. Here, it would be good to note that low performance might be an indication of their underutilized potential and not the fact that they lack the right set of attributes for doing that job.
  • Assessment: There are many assessment tools available to identify the future leaders, ranging from personality, ability and communication assessment tools, team-based interviewing, job simulation techniques to full-fledged assessment centres.
  • Development: Once a talent pool is identified, the focus next should be on developing important competencies like critical thinking, decision making, planning and organizing, strategic thinking and problem solving as well as awareness about personal strengths and weaknesses in individual and team contexts.
  • Support: Finally, a successful Succession Planning Program will highly depend on the support offered by the management. This support must be explicit, else it will only lead to anxiety amongst the ranks about being over-looked for leadership roles and will have a detrimental impact in the long term.

Therefore, the three-strep strategy for successful Succession Planning includes identifying, developing and supporting potential leadership talent in your organisation. Now is the right time to find out whether you have a concrete plan in place to ensure that a sudden exit from the top or middle management doesn’t leave your company rudderless!