Succession Planning Deserves More Love – And a New Approach

By Claude Werder, Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

Succession planning is one of those HR processes that’s talked about a lot but gets little action. Despite its obvious importance to business continuity and leader readiness, it’s typically hidden in the cellar of HR priorities.

Year after year, when Brandon Hall Group surveys business and talent leaders on top priorities, succession ranks tenth, eleventh or last among 12 listed options. Ironically, leadership development – which is dependent on high-potential identification and succession planning – always tops the list.

Of course, most organizations also rate their leadership development as woefully inadequate:

  • 66% of organizations in our latest research said they can’t prove their LD program has any business impact.
  • 41% of organizations told us they don’t believe their leadership group can adequately manage business goals over the next 12-18 months. Among those organizations, two-thirds blamed their leadership problems on inadequate succession management. (More than half also said selecting and developing high-potentials was ineffective).

Put another way, the research uncovers what organizations should already know: leadership development without succession planning is like having a lifeboat without oars. You just float along — slowly — in whichever direction the wind blows.

Why doesn’t succession planning get more love and attention? Probably because it’s difficult to do well. It’s time-consuming and complex, especially in large, global organizations. Plus, high-potential development and succession planning require reinvention.

Brandon Hall Group has a new way of looking at potential, and a new approach to the flawed nine-box approach to succession planning. It’s too much to put into in a blog, but if you want to learn more, contact us here.

In the meantime, we developed an assessment tool to help organizations take stock of their high-potential identification, and development and succession planning.

Here are a few sample questions, and you can access the tool here.

  • Are high-potential candidates identified by a defined set of the organization’s leadership needs?
  • Before identifying a high-potential, do you take steps to ensure the candidate’s personal and professional goals are aligned with business objectives and direction?
  • Are candidates for high-potential identification given assessments for behaviors and/or potential before selection?
  • Is emotional intelligence among the attributes for which hi-po candidates are assessed before selection?
  • Is the succession process consistently implemented throughout all levels of the organization, not just at senior and mid-levels?
  • Is your succession pool inclusive and represents the composition of your workforce and customers?
  • Does each succession candidate, at all levels of the organization, have targeted development and mobility plans?

Claude Werder is Brandon Hall Group’s Vice President and Principal HCM Analyst. He focuses on Leadership Development and Talent Management. Brandon Hall Group is a leading research and analyst firm with Practices in Learning & Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition and Workforce Management/Core HR.

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