How to Set Up a Successful Succession Plan [Part 2 of 3]
Editors note: This week’s blog is Part Two of our Three-Part Succession Planning Series Featuring Rockstar Employees CEO (and HR Transformation Executive), Laura Hume.
Succession planning—it’s a term that often sends shivers down the spines of even the most seasoned business leaders.
And yet, as we come into our 2024 Planning season, the question looms: What can companies do differently to ensure a smooth succession plan complete with intelligent policies and well-documented processes?
Avoiding Common Planning Pitfalls
In order to create a robust succession plan, it is essential to identify the skills of the people who could potentially take the place of the person leaving. However, there is another prior step that is even more critical: analyzing the skills required for the role (both today and for the future).
Too often leaders articulate skills for a role as if they’re trying to clone the exiting leader. This approach significantly hinders diversity, innovation, and new ways of thinking.
If the organization is looking for someone with exactly the same skill set and characteristics as the person currently in the role, this leads to another adage, ‘If you do what you’ve done, you get what you’ve got.’
Few companies want stasis for their future strategy.
It is also often the case that succession plans have only one person identified to fill the shoes of an outgoing leader. This may work in a short-term scenario where the person exiting is going to leave within the quarter. However, in the longer term, those best-laid plans can fall apart when the targeted successor also leaves the company or has been moved to such a critical internal position that they are no longer able to take the original succession plan without incurring significant and unwanted disruption.
Leveraging Your Succession Plan to Inspire Forward-Thinking
Instead, companies can look at succession planning as an opportunity to increase diversity and innovation by aligning skills to forward-looking company strategic goals. For example, if the company is bullish on technology and wants to move into generative AI solutions, then the new leader should have skills that align with that goal to push the company forward into new spaces. Conversely, if the company is moving into a cost-cutting mode, a different leadership skillset would be indicated.
A better long-term approach to reduce this risk is to create succession pools.
By leveraging AI-supported skills inference and heat maps, you can generate those lists of employees who come closest to having the right skills and proficiencies in order to identify small pools of people with characteristics that are a relatively good fit. It would be highly unlikely that anyone would have 100% of the identified skills at the correct level of proficiency. Fortunately, in these longer-term succession pools, you have the time to develop people to take on new roles and fill those identified gaps.
This mitigates the risk of relying on just one person staying in place for months, or sometimes years, in order to take over a critical role.