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How to Implement a Succession Plan

Talent Management

How to Implement a Succession Plan

May 17, 2016 Olivier Pestel

Regardless of the growth stage of a company, succession planning should be considered an integral part of long-term survival strategies. A leadership shakeup, no matter the underlying causes, will rattle employees, investors and the public especially if it becomes apparent that the company does not have a plan in place for leadership transitions.

Succession Planning as a Key Management Strategy

Business planning typically focuses on the marketing, financing and operational management of a business. Understandably, these are details that can be anticipated, monitored and measured to a certain extent. Succession management is often glossed over, which is a mistake because anecdotal evidence has shown that any changes in the C-suite will be met with concern by employees, other executives and any stakeholders of the company.

The succession planning process is a long drawn-out process that needs collaboration with key personnel and stakeholders to make sure that it is consistent with the company’s mission and business goals. Here are the most crucial aspects of talent mobility. 

  • Understand why the company needs to have a leadership succession plan in place.
  • Consider the company’s short and long-term management strategies to define a talent selection process that will put the best employees on track for progressive leadership positions.
  • Determine the succession plan that will work best for the company by consulting the board, key staff and other stakeholders.
  • Identify the management positions that will be included in the succession track.
  • Develop a structure for determining the most relevant positions that need backup personnel and the metrics to identify the type of talent needed for these positions.
  • Lay out a plan for implementing the succession management strategy and assessing the level of preparation.
  • Deploy technical tools such as succession management software to provide guidelines for developing, implementing and assessing the leadership transition plan.

Succession Management Means Transition without Chaos

A study conducted by Aon Hewitt found that about 72% of organisations have a prepared formal succession plan. However, only 53% report express confidence that their current plan ensures survival and continued success. The same study points out that only a third of respondents are prepared for employee succession at all levels, indicating that two-thirds are clearly unprepared for lower-level turnovers. This is a critical issue for companies when the positions require very specific skill sets that may be difficult to fill.

As a case in point: A large fast food chain with international operations implemented an employee development process that involved identifying and grooming potential leaders from their own talent pool rather than counting on external recruits as needed. The plan involved preparing two successors for each key position. This plan was called into play when the corporation lost the CEO and the expected successor in quick succession. The successors seamlessly transitioned into their new positions, proving the effectiveness of the strategy.

HR Succession Planning that Works

Managing through a crisis is a true test of leadership abilities, but proactively preparing for a crisis situation is an even better test of management competence. Here are a few initial steps any company can take to become more equipped to handle employment shakeups.

  • Develop a plan that focuses on business continuity – Losing a leader is tragic, but the business world moves on regardless. Make sure that the succession planning process accounts for interim leadership so that the organisation will always operate with someone at the helm.
  • Consider the business advantages that will ensue from a change in management, and capitalise on the opportunity to promote change as a positive development.
  • Make sure that the workforce will not sense a leadership vacuum during the transition process. Productivity, business engagement and confidence may be affected as the organisation goes through the transition.

Advantages of Succession Management Software

If it seems like HR succession planning is a complicated process that would be because there are too many considerations and players involved for the strategy to be workable. Cornerstone Succession is predicated on consistent and effective employee development practices. It is a tool that provides for talent identification using measurable parameters that are relevant across different fields and specialisations. Workforce planning becomes a long-term strategy that involves staff development and realignment as needed instead of just filling staffing for vacancies.

Employees who sense a clear career track are most likely to remain engaged and loyal to the company. Cornerstone Succession provides a system to track high performers and provide them with the tools to ensure continuous growth and a road map to long-term retention that would consequently lead to leadership roles if not key positions in the organisation's succession chain.

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