When created properly and with intentionality, succession management programs enable organizations to create a secure, sustainable plan for the future. Building such a plan includes seven critical steps.

#1: Create an organizational strategy

When embarking on the creation of a succession plan, developing an organizational strategy is key. Leadership must ask themselves:

  • What will the organization’s focus be in three to five years?
  • Who will the competitors be in three to five years?
  • Which, if any, new markets will the organization enter?

Considering the answers to questions like these is an imperative step in developing a succession strategy.

#2: Define the key positions

After formulating a clear understanding of the organization’s strategy, leadership needs to determine which positions will be fed by the succession management pool. While not all leadership roles in an organization will need to be part of the plan, focusing on the top 5 or 10 positions is a good start.

#3: Clarify performance metrics

After selecting the positions that will be fed by the succession pool, the organization should define the core competencies that will be required for success in these positions in the coming years. This step will likely require a review of the job, an evaluation of future needs, and the specification of an endorsed organizational performance model. With this information, organizations can define position-specific metrics that will for the foundation of the succession plan.

#4: Evaluating bench strength

After defining the competencies required for the position and the performance metrics to support it, organizations can now evaluate current employees. This step will provide a benchmark from which to compare candidates over time. If candidates show little or no improvement, the plan may require alterations. Additionally, by clarifying the current bench strength, companies can get a better idea of areas they should be addressed for future improvement.

#5: Build the succession management pool

The most effective way to build a succession management pool is by using information from a number of sources, including nominations from supervisors, talent assessment results, and overall performance data. Speaking with supervisors enables leadership to thin a large herd of candidates, and get a better understanding about who is and is not a good fit. Additionally, having candidates participate in talent assessments gives leadership further insights into their strengths and weaknesses to determine whether or not the candidate will, ultimately, succeed. Finally, each candidate should undergo a regular performance review.

#6: Professional development

After a pool is built, prospective candidates should then work closely with their supervisors to create and specify a development plan that focuses on three to five goals that can be accomplished within the next six to twelve months. Results from the candidates’ talent assessments can be integrated with performance feedback. This way, candidates and supervisors can identify development opportunities. If better performance is the destination, assessment results provide the directions.

#7: Promotion

Qualified candidates should be notified they are in the queue for a senior leadership position, and be given a timeframe in which this transition will occur so long as they meet the pre-determined performance metrics, which should be communicated clearly to candidates ahead of time.

Talent Management

At the heart of a succession management system are:

  • Background
  • Assessment
  • Performance data

This vast amount of data must be stored in an easily accessible platform. However, all too often, little thought is given to the management of these data. Fortunately, electronic databases enable organizations to store and organize candidate data. This way they can easily pull and use what they need when they need it, anywhere in the world. If a position opens up in Hamburg, a senior leader may find a fitting candidate in Toronto. Electronic systems allow for remote, easy access.

Benefits of Succession Management

By prioritizing its strategic future, determine what is required of future leaders, and prepare a plan that ensures a smooth transition from one leader to the next, organizations can transform from ordinary to extraordinary. There are a number of benefits that accompany a well-planned succession management program, including:

  • Engaged and motivated employees
  • a qualified talent pool
  • a reputation as a good place to work
  • an organized, disciplined view of talent and talent management
  • sophisticated selection and development systems
  • greater confidence among stakeholders
  • clear career trajectories for employees

What do you think?