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5 Commandments for Efficient Succession Planning

Over the past years, building talent resources for the future has become a major concern for companies worldwide. What is succession planning all about then? 

When a key employee leaves the organisation, whether it’s a sudden departure or a well planned one, a gap is left that must be filled quickly, efficiently and by someone with the right knowledge and expertise. Organizations today struggle to address properly current and future mission-critical occupations amid a vast market gap between talent and competencies. Paperwork no longer meets the needs of today's workforce mobility and nurture for innovation and efficiency.
Despite the many benefits of a formal succession planning process, companies seem to fail to make it a top priority and consistently support it through good practices. To achieve the desired results, organizations must start from scratch and create a strong internal process. Later on would be the time to invest in tools and technologies aimed at enhancing the focus on talent management. By strengthening this process, companies will get executives’ support and provide a "culture of performance" within the entire company.
Here are five critical steps to ensure you get the best results from your investment:

Eliminate paper and spreadsheets support
In most organizations, succession planning efforts are characterized by fragmented and inconsistent processes. Worse, many of them confuse succession planning with replacement planning. The latter is reactive, while the former is proactive and focuses on ensuring continuity of leadership.
Thus, HR managers spend weeks or even months, looking in different departments for the information they need to build lists of nominees and successors for various positions or job families.
To leverage a systematic approach organizations must take into account two solid foundations, namely organizational processes and technology. 
This requires:
  • Establish a responsible for the effective management of succession programs and career plans development;
  • Define a core succession planning process applicable at each level of the organization;
  • Align succession planning process to the organizational’s overall strategy and prepare the necessary tools for an efficient communication of the change; 
  • Define clear stages for the project and highlight those that are independent of technology support;
  • Choose the software solution that best matches your organization’s HR processes and objectives, integrates key components of HRM such as performance evaluations, competency management, training etc.
A succession plan will only be effective if it’s ongoing and applied at all levels of the organization
Proactive succession planning programs identify talent within the organization early and often, then focus on developing this talent. This means that succession planning is not just about filling in the missing or lost pieces.
Succession planning is essential for retaining highest performers, but also to eliminate the risk of high employee turnover. Organizations can achieve this by investing in theis employees’ career development paths. It is essential that the company offer adequate internal and external training, for employees to prepare them for progression and expand their knowledge and skill set, to conduct regular appraisals and give performance feedback.

Make sure your talent inventory is always up-to-date
To be truly effective, lists of candidates or successors must be dynamic, updated in real-time. This means that as HR professionals, you should always revaluate talent pools and consider shifts in key roles or business demands and strategies. For example, employees that end their activity within the company should be automatically removed from current succession planning programs. Alternatively, if an employee loses a certification confirming a specific skill, the list of candidates must be updated accordingly.
Thus, succession planning can be effectively managed only by aligning performance appraisals, skills and competency management, career plans and learning programs. 
Choose carefully the persons entitled to access the lists of successors or candidates, so as not to cause confusion or lack of motivation among employees.

Promote internal succession planning
Managers ability to mobilize talent within the organization is critical to the business success. Those companies that fail to meet this requirement are forced to face serious recruiting risks, excessive costs, faulty decisions, and lack of enthusiasm for new employees etc.
To prevent such risky situations, organizations can support the talent mobility by introducing a human resource management system (covering also talent management) and running analysis on current workforce status (employee profiles, positions, skills etc. ), leadership potential and attrition.
The company will retain some top talent that it might otherwise have lost. Employees who see the company is investing in their future are more likely to stay.

Succession Planning as Part of an Integrated HRM Strategy
Succession planning can not be achieved independently. It has to be integrated with other specific talent management processes, especially assessments that provide basic information about the performance and skills of employees.
Succession planning is based on fundamental data (skills, job families etc.), but also on assessments and feedback. This calls for a single HR platform, which enables efficient and accurate integration of both key talent management processes and information required.
In addition, a single HR platform promotes a direct link between learning and career development. It is essential that the company offer adequate internal and external training, for employees to prepare them for progression and expand their knowledge and skill set.
In today’s competitive environment, long-term business success is based on the ability to nurture and grow both talent and technology over the long-term. Career succession planning is not to be seen as a reactive measure, but as a proactive and on-going business priority. Retaining and enhancing talents will benefit both the organization, and the employees.


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