A strong succession plan can strengthen your organization.
By Dori Meinert
Executives say identifying future leaders is vital for reaching business objectives, yet fewer than half have formal succession plans in place at their
companies, surveys show. That’s a problematic disconnect that could leave organizations unprepared for the
challenges that lie ahead.
“What made you successful in the past is not going to
help you survive and thrive in the future,” says Amy Hirsh
Robinson, principal of Interchange Group, a consulting
company based in Los Angeles.
But many leaders may need a push to engage in this
type of forecasting, since the mere mention of succession
planning can prompt a host of emotions, says Robinson,
who gave advice to HR professionals at the Society for
Human Resource Management’s 2018 Annual Conference
& Exposition in June. They may be reluctant to share their
knowledge with someone who might replace them—no
matter how far off that time is.
That’s why it’s important for HR to build a business case
for succession planning and to help their senior team put
the necessary time and thought into the process. With
executives’ input and support, HR professionals can create
career development plans to ensure that high-potential
workers get the experience they need to be future leaders.
Sometimes it takes the departure of a valuable employee
to make leaders understand the importance of succession
planning, Robinson says. When a key person at any level of
the organization leaves and the position isn’t filled quickly,
morale drops, productivity suffers and turnover increases.
While succession plans often focus solely on getting a re-
placement ready for those in the highest ranks, they should
cover the roles of anyone whose sudden departure could
disrupt the business, says Kelly Renz, president and chief
executive officer of Novo Group Inc., in Brookfield, Wis.,
who also presented a session at the Annual Conference.
“Succession planning protects the business from unexpected changes that could potentially hurt the business,”
she says. It can also increase retention of top performers
and drive deeper engagement of managers by encouraging
them to “own” talent development, she says.
To help ensure a successful process, HR should:
Ask leaders to identify future needs. What skills will
tomorrow’s leaders need to meet business goals? Where are
the gaps between the skills represented in the current talent pool and the skills that will be required in the future?
Establish credibility by putting current leaders’ wishes
first. “Your expertise is critical, but it doesn’t matter unless
you position yourself as working to meet their needs,”
While each company has unique requirements, current
trends suggest that future leaders must be able to deal with
economic uncertainty and labor market changes brought IMAG