Critical Role Assessment

Posted on January 22, 2015 at 13:59 PM

One of the early stages in succession planning is to identify those roles for which you need to ensure a pipeline of talent.

For most organisations, having a successor identified and developed for each and every role would be beyond their reach, and not a productive use of HR resources.

It is probably the role of all managers to be readying their second-in-command, but, as an HR or OD practitioner, it is important to focus your efforts on talent planning for those roles which are most critical to the company’s immediate performance and future success.

But how do you identify these roles?

We’ve put together our top 7 tips on critical role assessment, and offered some views on how you can make the process easier and more streamlined.

  1. Review and align with business strategy
    This should be your first port of call.  Gather together any strategy documents, reports and presentations.  What are the key elements for the delivery of the strategy in the next 2-5 years?  Do any departments, teams or roles come to the fore when you consider what the company is prioritising in the near future?  This may identify skills or role gaps which the organisation needs to fill and then subsequently create succession plans for, but looking at the strategic priorities is a good way to identify critical positions, skills and functions. You will need buy-in from the business and its managers, so being able to demonstrate relevance to the organisation’s strategy can prevent your work here being seen as a ‘pet HR’ project.
  2. Survey the market
    What are the market conditions currently like?  Are there any professions, skills or specialisms which are in short supply at the moment?  Which positions are you currently finding it hard to fill due to a lack of available external talent?  Which positions are difficult to fill generally – either externally or internally?  Examining the current supply of talent to your industry – and even from outside it – is a useful way of highlighting those roles which create a recruitment nightmare if they became vacant.
  3. Take the pulse of Learning & Development
    What training and development gaps are more frequently addressed than others?  Are these critical or base skills?  If they are critical skills, where do they feature in an organisation and does that imply a critical role?  See if you can find a Consolidated Development Goals Analytic that shows the most commonly developed areas (it should also show you where in the organisation these gaps reside).
  4. Examine your organisation chart and structure
    They’re not always up-to-date, and they may not always make sense, but if you have a workable organisation chart you can take a closer look at it.  Are there posts at which multiple reporting lines converge?  What dependencies are there on the roles shown?  Are there lots of dotted lines which might indicate subject-matter expertise, professional leadership or critical project management?  Cover a role up and ask yourself what the impact on performance and strategy delivery would be if this role was left vacant for more than a couple of weeks.  When considering this impact, try to identify different levels of ‘criticality’ as it will help you agree terminology and gain buy-in from the organisation.
  5. Look beyond your leaders
    It’s not all about reporting lines.  The nature of the roles which will be most critical will be largely informed by the strategy, but ask yourself broader questions such as:
    “Where are the important touch points within the organisations for our customers?”;
    “Who is responsible for managing and representing our brand to the market?”;
    “Who is crucial to our product development activities?”;
    “Who within our corporate functions are the key enablers of performance, helping the business to deliver against the strategy?”.
    Don’t overlook roles in CSM, customer-facing environments, sales, marketing, R&D and central services.
  6. It’s good to talk!
    Consulting with the departments or business units in your organisation is likely to be an equally accurate and informative source of intelligence.  Ask business heads who they see as being essential to performance.  Get them to identify key roles and flight risk profiles.
  7. Skill combinations. A clue?
    Once you believe you have identified critical roles, take a look at the skills typically deployed in those skills and look for common combinations across these critical roles.  Then see if you can find other roles or even people that have the same combination.  Do any of their roles also belong on the Critical list?  Use skill databases and search tools to find these hidden gems.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help you to define your critical roles - and plan for the future - please get in touch.

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