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  • Writer's pictureRPA Editorial Team

Understanding Succession Planning

Each year you’re challenged with planning for staffing, training and business objectives. How will your organization meet established goals if you’ve got employees walking out the door? Whether it’s for new opportunities, retirement or other reasons, no doubt it’s time to re-evaluate your recruiting strategy, yes…but what about succession planning?

Developing and growing talent in-house?

If you can stack your bench with strong talent that you can pull at a moment’s notice to staff a project or back-fill a role and you’re golden. Here’s how to do it.

According to the 2014 Report on Senior Executive Succession Planning and Talent Development published by IED and Stanford Business School, here are the Six Key Elements of Successful Succession Planning:

1. Strategic Planning – Determine what capabilities, roles, and talent are needed to execute the business strategy today and in the future.

2. Talent Assessment – Gauge the Executive team’s bench strength – Do we have who we need (now and in future) and if not, how do we get there?

3. Recruiting – Develop a talent pipeline for key roles/jobs.

4. Performance Assessment – Let people know they are valued contributors and provide them opportunities for development, exposure to executives, networking across divisions, etc. (get them on the corporate radar screen.)

5. Development – Create development plans for individuals (e.g., leadership workshops, classes, on-the-job learning, assignments, special projects, 360s, external classes, etc.)

6. Retention and Engagement – Rewards and recognition, work environment, opportunities for development, job autonomy and scope of responsibilities, etc.

Now, let’s dig a bit deeper in to a few areas:

Build Your Bench

A Fast article summarized a survey of trends in executive leadership development and found surprising data. “Leaders are worried that their companies will lack the leadership capacity to achieve their strategic objectives. And they know the answer isn’t hiring talent away from companies because everyone is facing the same problem. More than 70% of the survey respondents said the lack of bench strength will have a major influence on their efforts in the next few years and 80% say that increasing bench strength, ensuring replacements for key jobs or people, will be the top objective for their executive development efforts.”

Wow…that’s a tough one. Lack of bench strength could plummet sales and stifle growth. And, if you factor in regular retirement and the loss of institutional knowledge your organization will surely face, what can you do to turn the tide now….rather than drown later?

Take a look at your internal bench first. Assess who you’ve got where and what their strengths are and build from there. If you come up short, you can fill the gaps with external recruiting.

Determine those employees who would benefit from mentoring. Discuss career goals and have conversations about upward mobility and begin a knowledge transfer across teams. As learning takes place, you’re able to prepare team members for new projects and the ability to work across business lines. Don’t miss out on these opportunities to strengthen your team.

Develop Others

During the recession, organizations cut learning programs and did away with tuition reimbursement. Developing employees was generally an added expense and no one had the time or the money for it. This mindset has really hindered the succession planning for many who are now struggling with attraction and retention of talent.

Because HR is often faced with program expenses and a lack of a budget to fund them, key opportunities to build talent internally, disappear. However, there are less expensive forms of developing your teams and it starts with mentoring, as we discussed earlier and moves on to coaching.

If you’ve ever wondered where coaching will take you as far as team development? Look no further. provides these valuable points to consider:

• Better assess strengths and weaknesses • Establish development goals and achieve them • Align their work with organizational needs, strategies, and goals • Feel a sense of support from the organization and become more engaged • Improve their confidence as they overcome challenges and obstacles • Develop analytical skills, problem-solving skills, and more • Become better leaders

Ensure Accountability

Succession planning is everyone’s responsibility. If you’re managing a team, your goal should be understanding organizational growth strategy in terms of both talent and revenue. From there, think about your own “local” strategy that will support the organization as a whole. How is your team impacting revenue goals? Do you have the right talent in place to fulfill demands placed on your team? As business changes, your team must change with it. Work towards the long-term with short-term goals that focus on the following:

• Engagement with external candidates. • Mentoring and coaching with your internal teams. • Scanning for talent across business lines.

If you haven’t started thinking about long-term succession planning, don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture. Focus on small groups and teams. Determine priorities based on the current needs and what’s trending.

In the meantime, determine mentoring and coaching opportunities and begin to have those discussions around career growth, motivation and long-term business planning.


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