Succession Planning, Planning For The Future
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Most business leaders understand that future success demands the right people, in the right roles, at the right time. Easier said than done!
So, what is Succession Planning?
According to Wikipedia: 'Succession planning is a business strategy for passing leadership roles on to one or more other employees. The strategy is used to ensure that businesses run smoothly after employees retire and leave the company.'
Deloitte, the international professional services firm, identified the challenge of succession planning and found that '86% of leaders believe leadership succession planning is an 'urgent' or 'important' priority, only 14%believe they do it well.
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Succession planning is not a one-off event. Succession plans should be reassessed regularly, and potentially updated each year or as changes in the company dictate.
The process is a key element of talent management which seeks to attract, identify, develop, engage, retain and deploy individuals who are considered particularly valuable to an organisation. CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personal Development) says: 'to be effective, it needs to align with business goals and strategic objectives. By managing talent strategically, organisations can build a high-performance workplace, foster a learning climate in the organisation, add value to their employer brand, and improve diversity management.'
The biggest challenges to an effective succession planning process are:
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Identifying potential candidates. When candidates are identified it is often based on current performance in a current role. To use a sporting analogy, the best players are not always the best coaches, it requires different skills sets. Many a star footballer has taken on a management role when their playing days are over but failed miserably as coaches and managers etc.
In the 1960s author Laurence J. Peter published a book entitled The Peter Principal
which observes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to 'a level of respective incompetence': employees are promoted based on their success in previous jobs until they reach a level at which they are no longer competent, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another.
Avoiding unconscious bias.
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Leaders can be influenced by conscious and unconscious biases. These biases can colour our perception of events, people, and roles to smaller or larger degrees depending on the strength of the particular bias and whether or not we are aware such biases exist. Business leaders can be tempted to look for people who ‘look like them.’ This can be gender or ethnicity but it can be personality treats, behaviours and personal style.
It's difficult to eliminate these biases completely. We’re only human and stereotyping is part of our mental framework. Businesses can reduce the effect of any one manager’s biases, however, by expanding the type of information taken into consideration for the succession planning process and the number of people involved in the process.
Maintaining company morale.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
To be successful the process needs to be transparent. It’s important that those identified as potential successors understand that they have been identified, and equally important that those not selected understand why and are reassured that they are still valued by the business and that they also have a bright future.
If a team member is identified as on the ‘fast track’ one of the key behaviours of leadership they need to demonstrate is humility. If individuals on the fast track see themselves as an ‘elite’ it doesn’t auger well for their suitability for leadership in the future.
Being identified as a future leader needs to depend on a fair and open process. This can include participation at assessment centres, completing psychometric testing and 360⁰ performance appraisal. Providing support and assistance is a critical element of post programme review and as much attention should be given to the unsuccessful as well as the successful candidates.
Ian Garner is a retired Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI) and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors (FIoD). He is Vice Chair of the Institute of Directors, North Yorkshire Branch. https://www.iod.com/events-community/regions/yorkshire-north-east
He is founder and director at Practical Solutions Management, a strategic consultancy practice and skilled in developing strategy and providing strategic direction, specialising in business growth and leadership. Ian is a Board Member of Maggie’s Leeds. Maggie’s provides emotional and practical cancer support and information in centres across the UK and online, with their centre in Leeds based at St James’s Hospital.
The Institute of Directors (IoD) is the UK's largest membership organisation for business leaders, providing informative events, professional development courses for self-improvement, networking and expert advice. The IoD North Yorkshire Branch has members across Harrogate, York and the surrounding towns and is reaching out to business leaders, of large and small enterprises, to help their businesses succeed.