5 Tips for Sustainable Succession Planning

According to the 2012 Chief Executive study by Booz & Company, of the world’s largest 2,500 public companies, 15% of CEOs were replaced last year, and 72% of the CEO turnovers were actually planned successions, suggesting that companies are working more thoughtfully than ever to ensure they put in place new leaders who will best serve the company for years to come.

Consider the senior leadership of your organization. Has your company made plans for the transition of these individuals? Succession planning is least effective when it is developed on an as-needed basis (in fact, it really should be called “crisis management” in that case); rather, succession planning should be ingrained in your complete talent management plan, making it a part of the way you do business. With every new hire you make, and as you onboard each employee, there are simple ways you can ensure the strength of your bench can withstand the inevitable changes that lie ahead:

Benchmark every position. Succession planning originates in the role definition process. It is there that stakeholders begin to truly understand the traits necessary for success in the role.

Don’t just hire for now. If you hire for now, you may miss the candidate who has the opportunity to flourish in the future. Picture each candidate in future roles within the company.

Be candid throughout the interview process. As much as you are interviewing candidates to better understand if they will fit into the culture of your organization, those candidates are interviewing you. Listen for their desires to grow within your company.

Instill the ubiquitous question, “What’s next?” Don’t wait for new employees to become acclimated to their jobs to intentionally communicate the company’s plans for growth. When you start having these conversations from day one, your “A-players” will subscribe to your vision and will see themselves in the company’s growth plan.

Don’t assume all employees desire the same things. Just because you see leadership potential in an individual doesn’t mean he or she shares in that desire for growth. Make sure those employees are comfortable in positions that are more constant, and continue to communicate with those individuals in case desires change as the company changes as well.

When you are operating with a sustainable succession plan, you will be able to look ahead and identify any gaps before they can affect the company. And, as you are identifying high potentials within the organization, you’ll be able to adjust each person’s development process to suit the critical needs of the company.

More concepts on Succession Design and the “T” System to be posted in the next couple of weeks.

Contributors:  John Oakes & Adam Wong