Irish News Article

Succession Planning – ensuring long-term organisational success

Neil Hughes
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The main goal of successful workforce planning is having the right talent in the right roles at the right time.

However, many organisations fail to pay enough attention to their talent pipelines and succession practices, which can lead to excessive turnover and loss of knowledge, affecting the performance and success of the organisation.

Having recently completed a review for a client in the public sector, including benchmarking a number of organisations, it is clear that it doesn’t just impact the private sector alone.

Successful succession planning typically links to talent management programmes, ensuring internal talent is ready to fill key roles if needed, and at the same time ensures individuals within the organisation feel valued, challenged and have opportunities for personal and professional growth. Organisations with a strong coaching and mentoring culture are generally more successful at filling roles internally, as leaders are organically developing and preparing their team members to step up if required.

All or certainly most organisations face the challenge of employees leaving or taking new leadership roles within the organisation, so succession planning should be made an integral corporate process within your organisation by highlighting the link between succession planning and the overall business strategy.

Before embarking on your succession planning however, a few key steps should be considered;

Forecast business needs, start with the end in mind. Create a detailed forecast and longer-term business plans so employees are aware of the longer-term organisational objectives and the skills needed to achieve these.

Set up a working group with relevant stakeholders. Succession Planning does not just sit with HR. Involve senior leaders and department heads across the organisation who can help identify the business critical roles, and also the pipeline of talent.

Look ahead 1-3 and 3-5 years and identify the business critical roles. There are a number of things that need to be considered when identifying the business critical roles, in particular the skills you will need in your organisation in 3-5 years’ time. A role that is deemed as critical now, may not be relevant in 5 years. You should also consider; what roles require specialist skills that may be difficult to replace, what roles are critical to your organisation achieving your goals, and finally what roles have people who are a flight risk, or are close to retirement.

Identify an inclusive and diverse list of potential successors. Think outside the box; look across the organisation and not just within the same department for potential candidates. Do not conduct this process behind closed doors and invite candidates to put themselves forward and assess their suitability for these business critical roles. The aim of a succession plan is to ensure the continuity of the organisation and identify the next generation of leaders, while shifting to a more diverse working environment.

Create an employee owned individual development plan. This does take time and ideally should be incorporated as part of the individual’s performance development process. Organisations can rely on developmental activities such as coaching or training or use specialised assignments such as action learning and web-based developmental activities.

It is important that employees are aware and have a clear understanding of the goals they need to reach. Therefore, organisations need to be both honest and transparent with employees in relation to their goals. Employees are often the best source of information when it comes to their skills and experience, therefore if they are aware of the goals and objectives they need to reach, they can take the appropriate steps to achieve them. This will aid you and your organisation prepare your employees to be your future leaders.