Talent Management and Succession Planning

In one our write ups we mentioned the problem of succession planning in organizations. The basis was the SHRM survey of 2003 that found out that 60% of organizations have no succession planning at all. We discuss the phenomenon in detail here. What is succession planning and when did it emerge as a problem? What is the way out? Questions like these will be discussed in the coming lines.

Succession planning is a systematic process of identifying and developing talent for leadership positions in the future. According to SHRM survey of 2003 it was found out that 60% of the firms that they interviewed had no succession planning in place and contrastingly about 70% of the major corporations globally had a proper succession planning in place in the late 1970’s. Similarly IPMA HR survey of 2004 found out that 63% of companies have no manpower planning at all which was commonplace in every organization till the late 1950’s. So the question that arises is when did succession planning emerge as a problem? Who is responsible - is it because of some demographic changes or because of the apathy on the part of management?

Marshall Goldsmith one of the world’s leading executive coaches recently wrote that many executives complained about succession planning being such a waste of time. Still many CEO’s complained about lack of bench strength in their organizations - lack of talent principally. Finally the role of demographics cannot be ignored! United States, for example has an aging population. India on the other hand has a population that is young by demographic standards. The combination of all these factors we may say has made a mess of succession planning in the past few decades.

What is the way out ?

‘Tell me and I will listen, show me and I will see and let me do it and I will learn’, how can we forget the age old adage! Plans specially pertaining to succession it seems do not work anymore, it is the development experiences that engage and motivate people at work. Perhaps renaming your succession planning to succession development may go a long way in reviving the succession planning process in your organization. The planning processes have lots of do’s and don’ts that make people think of it as another plan that is an end in itself and no a means to future position. Let them realize the focus is on development and not on the planning process.

The next step would be laying emphasis on outcomes rather than the process. This would underline in the eyes of employees what gets measured and what gets rewarded and elicit necessary behaviors and behavioral changes. Their ownership in the development process can increase as a result. Then there is a need to make the assessment process as simple as possible. Organizations have a tendency to make the assessment process complex unnecessarily. Complex assessment processes make assessment difficult for the average line manager. More complex assessment processes can be developed at the level of people development, while planning for succession, keep it simple.


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