Succession Planning: embracing the changing talent market

Posted on July 05, 2017 at 10:59 AM

succession planning

In our last blog we looked at the challenge of deciding on who are the right people to include as successors in any succession plan - and how to identify them.

Now we turn our focus to the impact that the changes in the talent market have had on succession planning.

Until now, developing succession plans has been biased towards the needs of the organisation: employees have had to adapt and skill themselves up to meet these needs. The implicit assumption was that those earmarked for future roles would happily bide their time in the organisation and embracing the opportunities to develop relevant skills en route, until the right positions became available.

That's no longer the case.

Enter the 'portfolio career'. With employees having the opportunities of gathering a range of work experiences and employments, full and part-time, freelance and employed, organisations are realising that succession planning has to be more individual-centred. In other words, focused to a greater degree on the needs of talented people.

This power shift has been so fundamental - and talented individuals are now in such demand - that organisations are increasingly having to think about their talent as 'consumers', not as servants of the organisation. Effectively, this means that employers are now aiming to engage with talented employees and satisfy their career needs, in the same way that they try to meet the needs of customers.

What's the impact on succession planning?

We believe that organisations need to be looking at far shorter succession plans: it's no longer realistic or practical to think of a five-year succession plan. But the concept of succession planning is still relevant. It just needs to be conducted over a shorter time span; two years is a reasonable duration to identify and prepare successors for key roles.

Another change; line managers will play a crucial role in facilitating an individual-centred approach to talent. They'll need to engage talented employees in a dialogue about their career, including their aspirations and their current capabilities. The issue here is that many line managers are either concerned about creating expectations that can't be met or they're uncomfortable in conducting career conversations.

HR can help in two ways.

  1. Frame the context and oversee governance - the role of HR is partly about championing a new model of succession planning but also about ensuring that the organisation's practices are justifiable. Without this, succession planning can be undermined by accusations of unfairness, nepotism or unconscious bias.
  2. Help and support line managers to encourage confident career conversations - key to this is having access to the right data. Talent management and succession planning software tools can not only compile information on people's capabilities, performance and potential, they can help line managers to understand and monitor what individuals want from their career, what drives them and what will keep them engaged. With the extra level of analysis that these systems provide, line managers can have a focused, empowered and personal career dialogue with each employee.

We've recorded a couple of videos about this - and you can view them below.

succession planning model

succession planning


If you would like to explore how we might support you and you succession planning activities, do get in touch.

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