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Succession management programmes: the backbone of every organisation?

ID-10083024Are they necessary? Do they deliver? What benefits would you see if you implemented a succession management programme within your company? And how can you ensure your programme is appropriate?

What succession planning is, and how it can prove its worth

Succession planning should not be an afterthought or a consideration once a vacancy appears, but a seamless, consistent initiative running throughout the company, which aligns to the company’s medium and long-term goals. The focus, therefore, should not be on replacing staff or how a workforce is best distributed in the current climate, but on retaining future talent and the strategic career plans of key people holding specific skills and the right aptitude – it’s a perpetually evolving process. This forward thinking also upholds business continuity – rather than see a lifetime of knowledge and experience disappear as a senior executive retires, succession planning can help upcoming talent harness this expertise, by shadowing, mentoring and personal introductions to the departing executive’s carefully built up network.

The feeling such nurturing instils in an in-house high-achiever, knowing they’re being ‘cultivated’ for bigger and better things, can further boost their loyalty and become an even bigger driver of their performance. That their future looks promising and is clearly mapped out within their organisation dissipates any need to look elsewhere.

Does every organisation see the worth in their programme?

It appears, however, that some programmes aren’t fit for purpose. According to a recent survey of 1,000 senior executives, less than a quarter were confident that their company’s succession management programmes would deliver the right candidate – if any at all – to executive and leadership positions. The majority, despite having structure in place for in-house promotions, were forced to look outside the organisation to fill higher level vacancies.

Though it’s easy to see succession planning as a business element that can easily be put on the back burner if more immediate concerns/issues arise, in the long run, the organisation could suffer as a result. Having a good understanding of the issue from their position, HR directors believe succession planning is even more important now than it was before the recession, according to recruitment specialists Randstad Financial and Professional, and their findings from a recent study they held. Two-thirds of those polled went on to say they believed succession planning would be even more crucial in the future.

Starting early…

It’s been shown that pay is only one consideration when it comes to career choices; an effective solid, structure for progression is likely to influence talented employees far more. Some say that succession planning should be a factor from the off – even when interviewing prospective employees – in order to recruit and hone key positions within the company.

Identifying possibilities within a workforce is a key element of both talent management and succession planning. Have you tests in place, for example, to measure potential? Do you have appropriate resources and programmes available to develop raw talent for future senior roles?

Planning affords time towards building the right skills in the most appropriate area. By the time succession occurs, transition is seamless. Compare this to a more reactionary approach to succession, and it’s likely that the person taking over won’t hold the necessary transferable skills or fully understand the nature of the role he/she has taken on.

The competitive advantage of a company boasting a flourishing succession programme is significant, and the implementing of such an initiative need not be difficult – so why are they not integral to as many businesses as they could be?

Some businesses, such as fast-growing technology companies, simply haven’t had the time to install such a scheme or structure whilst focusing on the growing of their business. Another reason could be that founding members of an organisation find it difficult to let go, at pains to think of their retirement and who may succeed them. In family-run businesses, issues in personal relationships can see those at the top actively seek out impartial third parties to run their businesses, rather than hand the reins to the next generation – a move borne out of fear that the founders’ practices and business plans won’t be followed.

It’s clear that an appropriate, thriving succession planning programme and talent management initiatives can drive a company forwards far more than a company without such schemes in place. Given the incessant drive for competitive advantage, I believe succession planning will become even more necessary as time marches on. 

Do you need help to create a succession planning programme within your organisation? Angela Sabin is a Senior Coaching Practitioner and executive coach, helping those engaging her services remove obstacles in their careers or life situations. Contact Angela on 01302 220021 or email her at angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

Thanks to ddpavumba at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.

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