Take Succession Planning Out of the Stone Age

Christina DeLeonibus

Christina DeLeonibus is a Manager at Educe. She leads Cornerstone OnDemand implementations across multiple industries including Financial Services, Healthcare,…

What is succession planning? Succession planning is a strategy of identifying and developing your company’s future leaders. It helps companies identify and determine who would be next in line for key positions should their current talent retire, resign or separate from the company.

Most companies to date are conducting succession planning either manually or on paper, making the process time-consuming and difficult to incorporate into any sustainable development process. Trying to convert a paper or manual process into a system process can be overwhelming, especially with all the capabilities and integrations a system introduces.

Here are some pointers to help you implement a successful rollout:

1. Get executive buy-in
Starting from the top down with any type of change helps employees understand the importance of a new process. Make sure to have any initial communications about a new succession process or system come from your executives first.

2. Start small
It’s not always best practice to roll out a system to the global population. A successful succession implementation usually happens when you start small. Know your most important positions. It’s best to focus on the most critical positions to avoid business interruption(s).

3. Know the data needed
Knowing what information is needed when managers and assessors are completing a succession plan is imperative for organizations. What are the key pieces of information required to plan? Do they need to provide risk of loss or impact of loss? Does the employee show interest in relocation?

4. Make performance managers accountable
The direct supervisor is the link to the employee. Make them responsible for the initial assessment of their employees. Having the indirect managers or more senior levels complete the assessment might not provide the most accurate data needed.

5. Use competency assessments
The use of competencies to determine an employee’s performance or potential level provides much more evidence to support the ratings. Consider competencies that can be used across the board to help determine the individual’s performance and potential level.

6. Get employee input
Succession planning isn’t just left up to the manager or HR. Have the employee get involved by completing their career preferences and career profile. This will help your managers and HR in the planning process by understanding the employees background and career ambitions.

7. Have a plan for development
Once succession planning is complete, how are you going to develop the successor’s talent? Have a plan in place to update development plans or set up a process to collect what is needed to develop your talent. Companies often find a plan for development as an area where they fall short.

8. Change management
Change management is the most important part of making a succession rollout successful. Determine who needs to be “in the know” for the new succession system and what their role will be. To help with adoption, create targeted communications for those specific audiences. For employees to complete their input, have an incentive to advertise to them.

Having a good change management plan and holding performance managers accountable are two of the main areas for success in succession planning. In order to gain support and momentum, it’s important to provide clear messaging to let employees and managers “know what is in it for them”. Establishing and following a good communication process, with regular reminders each year to ensure employees update their career details, will help keep the process successful for years to come.

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