A New Spin on Succession Planning

Succession planning has typically been a very politicized process – decisions about who should be advanced are often kept in the board room, where managers discuss in private the merits of their various employees. Behind closed doors, they often use subjective methods and play favorites. Yet, to be most effective, succession plans should be derived from objective data to ensure that the most qualified employees – those than show the greatest skills and aptitude to take on a leadership role – are advanced.

For succession planning to be most successful, the process needs to leave private conference rooms and move out into the open. When management can bring more visibility to the process, using objective data and real time information to make results-based talent mobility decisions, it can keep its employees motivated and ensure they are working to their full potential. Consider the following tools and techniques that can help your organizations develop an effective succession plan:

Career Pathing: To create a more transparent process, the key is to letting employees know the potential career paths available to them in the organization. Keeping this information secret will only end up hurting the company, since employees who understand the future opportunities available to them can begin working to gain the necessary skills to grow into those roles. At the same time, the company can ensure candidates have access to the resources and mentors that can help them prepare them for advanced positions.

Real-time Performance Feedback: Also integral is to base promotion decisions on actual performance results rather than perceived growth potential or other subjective methods. Using 360-degree feedback on employee performance can ensure that succession planning is based on an objective, legally defensible basis, and it isn’t left to the whims of management or come down to a popularity contest.

Social Media: A strong social presence is crucial to not just attract new talent, but also to understand and identify the talent already in the company. Consider the success General Electric has seen with its proprietary social platform, GE Collab, which increases collaboration and keeps top performers more engaged. Still, a custom-built platform isn’t a requirement; tools like SharePoint and Yammer also make it easier to network and gain insight into high potentials and ensure they receive support to grow into advanced roles. While many companies are still reluctant to embrace social media in the workplace, those that do will stay ahead of the game and have a more robust succession process.

Digital Interviewing: Once high potential candidates are identified, it is important to involve managers and other stakeholders in the decision-making process, and digital interviews can facilitate that. When individuals are given competency-based interviews, busy executives can view them at their convenience, and can rewind, fast-forward, skip and share with their colleagues as necessary.  When more people are given the opportunity to assess and evaluate high potential individuals, the process becomes more open and less subjected to personal bias.

The benefits for organizations that look to their current employee base, rather than hire external candidates, to fill positions are well known. But for such a strategy to be successful, the organization has to be sure it selects the right candidates for advancement. By bringing the process out in the open, high performing individuals will be more motivated to work towards that promotion, while more people can be involved in the selection process. What results is a transparent environment where all employees work at their best to meet both organizational and personal goals.

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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