Many organizations dedicate a great deal of resources toward training and development, yet still find themselves short-handed when it comes to effective leadership. This lack of focus on succession planning can be especially impactful when a quick change is needed due to managerial turnover, shifting cultural trends, or political circumstances.
Succession planning is a talent management process that builds a pool of trained workers (from entry-level to senior leadership) who are ready to fill key roles in preparation for the natural changes in a business due to organizational growth, talent loss and retirement. Having a pipeline of candidates ready to assume key leadership roles is not natural for many organizations. Despite the knowledge that without a comprehensive succession plan in place companies can make costly promotion mistakes.
When things change
With the Baby Boomer generation becoming eligible for retirement each day, Millennials – who already make up more than a third of the workforce – will soon hold about half of all leadership positions within a decade, followed by Generation Z now entering the workforce in large numbers. With shifting demographic trends, companies need to readjust their succession planning to assure smooth leadership transitions.
It is not only the composition of the workforce that is changing. Organizational, political and societal circumstances can change quickly demanding the organization quickly redefine what it needs from its leaders. Leadership competencies may have to be revisited, existing job positions may be eliminated and new roles created to address new business challenges.
A successful succession plan needs to be flexible enough to cover all these possible shifting parameters along with the changing composition of the workforce.
Besides being flexible there are a few other factors organizations should take into consideration when establishing their succession strategies to meet tomorrow’s needs.
Know what good looks like
Many organizations make the mistake of assuming that high performing employees are also the best leadership candidates. This causes hiring and promotion decisions to be built on more subjective factors rather than objective data such as a leadership success profile. Competency models are one of the most effective tools for identifying and developing the competencies an effective leader should possess.
When candidates are not measured against the right competency model, organizations waste time trying to develop the wrong talent.
Knowing what good looks like in your organization will give you the time to assess early, often and well when searching for the next high-potential leaders. Effective assessment strategies that include multiple forms of evaluation, such as behavioural interviews, leadership questionnaires, and situational judgment tests, will provide more accurate results and effective leaders than asking managers to appoint their top candidates.
Ongoing development to better prepare candidates
Once the competency model is established and high-potential candidates are identified, the next step is to establish targeted training and development programs.
To best prepare future leaders, focus on training with practical applications, emphasizing how theoretical concepts can be converted into everyday practice. This will set them up for success. As they go through this kind of training, these future leaders should be presented with opportunities to utilize a variety of different skills, tools and resources. This, along with receiving ongoing feedback on their performance will keep their development on track. Millennials and Generation Z, in particular, appreciates regular feedback and will thrive with a mentor who provides frequent, specific feedback and coaching.
Measure the impact of success management
A successful succession program also needs to be measurable. Organizations need to see that the training does prepare potential leaders for actual leadership positions. Implementing an ineffective training program only frustrates employees and lead to expensive hiring mistakes. Unfortunately, failure to measure success, both of the training and the resulting succession, is a common issue in non-successful succession planning that organizations repeat, to their detriment.
By investing in evaluating the efforts and data, organizations can identify areas of the succession strategy that need improvement.
A good way to start is to monitor metrics such as:
- turnover and retention of the leadership candidates over time
- the number of candidates who are promoted,
- the cost saved by not having to recruit outside,
- and the overall level of employee satisfaction.
By taking a long-term, multi-level view on succession, organizations can create a reliable pipeline of qualified leadership candidates while protecting themselves from the uncertainties of change. Having the right leadership, for any competitive industry, means the difference between success and crisis.
Succession is much more than handing over the keys to a bunch of new leaders. Start now to ensure leadership transitions will strengthen rather than weaken your organization. HUCAMA can assist you in identifying and developing high potential employees for your organization. We have decades of experience in leadership development and succession management.