Why is it that many firms spend their talent development money so unwisely? There's plenty of professional guidance out there, but they still get caught up in shotgun decisions due to management politics and personal supplier preferences. Does that sound familiar to you?
One cause which we see is a lack of attention towards effective succession planning. This doesn't have to be a heavy or extensive process - but through a light management-led approach utilizing some basic data, you and your talent development specialists can help management gain new insights and make informed decisions. This is important as informed succession planning decisions are key to informed talent development decisions.
Steps in effective succession planning
Rather than jumping to talent development decisions, you need to logically break down the elements which will affect your development needs into bite-size steps. Each one can become big on its own, but don't let that happen - don't overcomplicate things - begin with the bite-size basics. These three steps will help guide your insight collection.
1 Critical roles in changing conditions Your talent development activities are essential to filling the pipeline for critical roles - getting successors ready to take over value-adding leadership and specialist positions. So you need to identify your critical roles. You do this by defining the criteria for critical roles, identifying the roles and then the incumbent persons who are presently in these roles. Challenge yourself when doing this. It may be helpful to consider whether there are changing conditions due to the organisational design - reorganisation or small adjustments due to fx. poor performance, new strategies and ambitions, areas of growth and innovation etc. And always remember the golden rule of "roles before talents" - don't let current talent attention come before critical role attention - even though you need to keep an eye out for retaining your talents through attractive successor roles. Maybe your exercise here is equally focused on developing future talents, which you are attracting from the outside right now?
2 Incumbent risks and probabilities
What is the risk of someone moving on? And do you expect that to happen soon? Be honest when assessing incumbent risks of them leaving you or being promoted, retiring etc. Start by defining your risk criteria, then look at the performance of each person in a critical role and the level of risk and the consequences if he or she moves on. Finally, estimate the likelihood of that happening - and if high, when? This mapping exercise will give you some valuable insights to share with management such as where you need to have successors ready in case of a sudden change or emergency, and which areas are necessary to plan for longer-term changes due to involuntary separation, generation change or growth potential. Now you know some more about the roles, but which talents do you have in the pipeline for these and other future critical roles?
3 Successor and talent options
Do you know your pipeline? Traditionally, organisations have thought vertically on who is next in line, but remember the organisation can be redesigned and your career journeys do not need to be rigid. Try thinking out of the box when looking for internal successor journeys - maybe from interim employee to critical role-holder via an indirect route in record time? You do this through talent identification, assessment and planning - whether that be large scale or more hands-on. Create successor buckets of those who are ready or almost ready, identify talent pools of those who are further away but high-potential successors, and map out successor pipelines for each of the critical roles.
Only now are you truly ready to map out competency gaps among your successor and talent populations for leadership and other critical roles. Only now are you ready to make insight-informed decisions on customised leadership and talent development programs and wise talent development spend!
Interested in hearing more on this? If so, please contact us and send us your questions.