Succession planning is as critical today as it has ever been. However, it has evolved from pure progression planning – preparing to replace what exists now at some point in the future – to actively and strategically planning for the future and ensuring the organisation is prepared and ready for change.
Succession planning is reliant on understanding the strategic direction of the organisation and the capacity required in the short and long term to deliver this strategic direction.
Traditionally, succession planning has been about employees being ready to fill positions that are, or may soon become vacant in the current structure. When using this traditional approach, organisations find themselves focussing on maintaining the status quo rather than using succession planning as a key driver of organisational growth. A lack of recognition of position and people growth results in throwing more staff at the problem rather than growing existing employees.
Organisations need to consider which is better for them:
- “Steady as you go” growth that might maintain the organisations current growth rates, but may not be keeping up with the economic growth
- Deliberate interventional organic growth, identified largely through a structured strategic planning process and which quantifies the expected growth over the next 3 to 5 years.
Obviously the latter is ideal. A strategic plan that considers deliberate organic growth, focusses on the core purpose, outcomes and stakeholder expectations provides both the performance framework to define the measures of success (based on the core purpose), and the capability framework that allows you to know your organisation’s limits and where you need to get to achieve your goals.
The Successful Succession Planning Process
Successful succession planning begins with sound data on the following:
- Current, future and possibly transitional organisational structures.
- Position descriptions for each structure that includes a quantifiable competency approach.
- The assessment of the incumbent employee’s competency against their current position.
- A well-defined development plan to fill any current gaps.
Succession planning is a two-step process, focusing on both the short and long term needs of the organisation. Firstly, development of the plan based on the 3 to 5 year changes and growth expected in the current position. And secondly, progression development based on the competence and potential to develop into a more senior position.
With the position descriptions completed, the organisation can focus on assessing employees against future positions, determining what that position will call for and planning a course of action to have individuals ready to meet the organisation’s needs. A well-structured performance management system provides valuable input into individual’s growth and readiness for new challenges as well as areas that may require further attention.
Doing it right
A thorough and well-structured strategic plan supported by well-defined structures (current, future and transitional) are the backbone to ensuring succession planning drives change and growth.
Don’t just throw people at the problems, grow your employees in line with your “business” growth.