January 2020
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Big Shoes to Fill?
TD Magazine

Big Shoes to Fill?

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Succession planning is the key to improving your company.

Succession planning is a formal, proactive, and deliberate process that determines which individuals may step into key roles once they are vacant. But how do you make the transition from succession planning to talent management?


According to Gallagher's 2019 Organizational Wellbeing & Talent Insights report, the first step is to identify and define roles. Include as many roles as your organization can afford. Clearly identify not only the roles to fill but also their requirements and drivers of success, including core competencies, skills, and other criteria related to the organization as well as the specific role. Forecasting near- and long-term workforce needs and considering significant influences will produce better results.

Take a comprehensive approach that integrates data and insights to improve processes and outcomes for managing talent succession. A complete, data-driven approach introduces past performance appraisal ratings, a 360-degree assessment, and interviews with incumbents that create a comparative profile of their strengths, areas for improvement, and career goals. Besides improving the quality of information, organizations can increase planning efficiency through technology investments.

While top leadership defines and conveys the company's commitment to this cultural priority, HR and talent development facilitate progress by providing the right structure and tools along the way. Performance reviews can be designed to track and reward managers for achieving promotions or for developing and preparing direct reports who move into more fulfilling roles.


An alternative to role-specific succession planning is talent pools. This approach identifies executive talent pools that show C-suite potential. The overall advantage is a better line of sight across the organization into individuals whose aligned capabilities are a fit, including leadership competency, technical skills, and strategic capacity. The visibility these pools create also makes it easier to uncover qualified prospects who may have been overlooked.

Managers should be direct with feedback, support development plans, and manage expectations. Employees need to be told where they stand relative to realistic career goals and notified of opportunities to grow or enhance skill sets or other abilities.

Development plans customized with programs such as mentoring, coaching, and stretch assignments fortify organizations with resilience to change by strengthening employees with the readiness to take on their next career phase. When enough time and intention are put into a workforce plan, succession planning becomes a welcome proposition and a highly valuable investment.

About the Author

Stephen Newman is a former writer/editor for ATD.

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