Three key steps to create succession planning consistency

Author: Doris Sims, SPHR

As more corporations update their talent management strategies, consistency in the identification, reporting and development of key talent and successors is important to:

  • Create a solid leadership competency across the organization with a common emphasis on the values and skills needed to meet the company’s specific business and customer needs.
  • Protect the company by creating a fair and legally defensible talent assessment process.
  • Easily move high potentials and successors across various divisions of the company and prevent the problem of “this person was a high potential in Australia — what happened to her when she moved to Europe?”
  • Develop a talent pipeline across all business units, cities and countries, rather than having pockets of talent in some areas and talent gaps in others.

Creating enterprise-wide consistency can be a challenge, especially when considering different cultures and geographic areas. The keys to creating a successful strategy are the people who lead the process and structure; the tools, documentation and procedures used to execute the plans; and executive support for dependable program participation and accountability.

Key No. 1: Leadership and Organizational Structure

Talent and organizational development practitioners must lead the strategy and processes in each section of the organization, whether divided by geographic region or by business unit. Some companies view their talent management personnel as part of their external recruiting initiative, while others see them as part of their training and development program. No best practice has yet emerged on the organizational placement of talent and succession planning employees, but an ideal talent management organizational structure should include sectional HR professionals who report to both a business leader and a senior leader or executive who has internal talent responsibility for the entire organization. Ideally, this leader is specifically devoted to talent management — rather than a general HR executive — and is responsible for all internal talent management initiatives. If talent management professionals report only to the business unit, rather than a matrix or direct line to a global talent leader, consistency across the organization will be difficult to achieve.

Key No. 2: A Consistent Leadership Competency Model, Definitions and Tools

Organizations that successfully create consistency in their talent management processes must first develop and communicate what an effective leader looks like in their organizations and how this effective leader can be identified and developed. A worldwide leadership competency model can help, especially when the model is used in conjunction with rating systems or as part of a nine-box talent assessment chart. Use the same definitions of successors and high potentials throughout the organization, throughout the year. The global talent management team, working with business leaders, must agree on what they are looking for in a high-potential leader to be successful in identifying him or her. Further, use consistent methods and content for talent documentation, reporting and metrics. Provide templates and/or an online succession planning system to ensure all talent management professionals and business leaders are documenting the same type of information for key talent in the organization.

Finally, communicate the enterprise-wide metrics that all talent management practitioners will be responsible for providing, and hold everyone accountable for producing the required data. Required presentations to executive leaders help hold HR and business leaders accountable for following a consistent and valuable talent management process.

Key No. 3: Executive Support and Participation

When the organization’s top executives lead and communicate the succession planning strategy, it is integrated into and prioritized with other top business goals in the company. When executives participate in the process, hold their direct reports accountable for talent identification and skill development and hold themselves accountable for reporting succession planning information to the board, this creates an ideal foundation for the corporate succession planning strategy. This level of consistency in talent and succession management typically takes several years to develop, and most organizations continue to work on all of these consistency keys on an ongoing basis.

To learn more about succession planning services available through the Employee Training Institute, including knowledge transfer services, onboarding creation, and talent pipeline development, contact us.