Succession Planning Program RequirementsThere are three critical elements to a successful leadership succession planning program:
- Identify the talent
- Develop the talent
- Retain the talent
1. Find The TalentYou need a program that actively seeks out and identifies individuals with potential for greater leadership responsibility. If your company uses an annual performance review program you could, for example, track those employees who consistently get the highest ratings. A better approach is to have a recognition program where employees nominate people for employee-of-the-month. Don't limit the award to employees in the succession planning group, but flag those employees who receive recommendations for their successes in completing projects, solving problems, saving money, and building teams. These are the ones you want in the program. Also keep an eye on the people making the recommendations. They obviously are interested in the company’s efforts.
Supplement that with a recommendation program in which supervisors point out their top people. Some supervisors will recommend everyone in their group because they think it makes them look better. That's why you want to use multiple sources to identify the top employees. Everyone in a particular supervisor’s unit may, in fact, be a star because that supervisor happens to be a great mentor. It’s possible, but not likely, so don't exclude employees just because their supervisor nominates a lot of people. But do validate those recommendations.
Using multiple sources like this gives you a way to identify employees with promotion potential. Recognize this list will change over time. Employees will be added as they demonstrate potential and deleted because they prove they have reached their limits.
2. Develop The TalentFirst, you'll need a way to keep track of the employees who have been identified as potential leaders. Then you will need a way to train them and keep track of their training.
Keeping track of the identified employees is the only way you will know if they are consistently improving. It's also where you track the special developmental assignments they've been given and how they did on those assignments.
You will want to develop supervisors who assign developmental projects to top employees and then track those employees and report on their progress in the developmental assignments. The supervisors are a key element of a successful program. Not only do they help you track the employees with potential, their attitude toward the program, and support of it, helps you identify which supervisors also are potential candidates for increased leadership responsibility.
The tracking system does not have to be complicated. Size the program to fit your company size and your company culture.
HR, or the training department, is a good place to centralize these records. And you want to have a central file location rather than keep them in individual departments because you expect these top people to work in different departments as you move them around to continue their training.
Train ThemMany people believe they have to get promoted to get ahead. For a succession planning program to be effective, employees need to see the value of lateral transfers. These transfers are how you get people trained in different areas. Doing so helps you broaden their skill set, but also points up (and lets them discover) additional areas they might enjoy and excel in.
In addition to training people by moving them around, make sure they get formal training that is appropriate for the company's needs and the employee's interests.
Regardless of the method of training, keep track of what the training was, the type of training, the duration, and the score.
For some training, there may be a test and a numerical score. This is common, for example, in certification testing. On the other hand, a training that consists of a three month temporary assignment to a different department may have as its score an evaluation by the supervisor of the department. That evaluation would rate the employee's performance. The rating could be numeric, like one through five, or it could be descriptive, like satisfactory, superior, or excellent.
3. RetainThe TalentIt does no good, and actually causes financial harm, to train and develop leaders internally if you can't keep them in the company. It is important to recognize that you will not be able to retain all of the employees you train through a succession development program. Your goal is to retain as many as you can for as long as you can.
You will need to give these employees incentives for them to remain in the company and continue their development. It's important to note that while money, in the form of salary and bonuses, can be an effective incentive, it is not the only appropriate and effective incentive. Individuals of the caliber that you will want to bring into your succession planning program often are motivated by challenges. Making sure that these individuals have challenging assignments and are not just bogged down in everyday details is an effective way to motivate many of them. Praise and recognition are good motivators as well. The simple fact that these individuals are part of the leadership succession planning program is itself a motivator. Ultimately, these individuals will be motivated by promotion to positions with greater responsibility and authority. After all, that's what this program is for.