I stumbled on this article published by the international training and consultancy firm Achieve Global on the critical issue of succession planning .Article link is :

The article mentions the importance of succession planning in today’s competitive business environment. It further builds a historical and socio economic context to strengthen the case for strong succession planning in organizations. The important generic factors mentioned are a) impending retirement of the baby boomers b) Generation X and Y characterized by high volatility and low loyalty c) Lack of a strong middle management level in most organizations

Keeping these factors in mind the article suggests a three pronged way or three different models of succession planning. They are:

a)Contingency model based on emergency replacement

b) Long term planning model based on long term organizational needs and a strong strategic framework

c) A Mixed model which comprises of the emergency replacement method and long term planning model

The article cites successful examples of organizations like Johnson and Johnson , Eli Lily Microsoft , Proctor and Gamble who have taken visionary steps to have a robust talent pipeline and have embarked on focused initiatives to develop leaders . The various tools and techniques range from identifying high potential people , using different assessment tools and techniques , communication of the intent of the management to the employees .The article further sates the three critical factors that should be considered by human resource professionals during the process of succession planning and they are

Strategic planning -This involves a review of the organizational strategy and building systems based on the internal and external factors

Knowledge and criticality of the role –Here the HR professional will have to identify the critical roles for effective retention of talent and knowledge

Talent Management as a holistic process– Finally succession planning has to be viewed as a sum of multiple inputs and hence on should have a talent management philosophy where recruitment , career development , learning , retention are viewed as various dimensions of the entire process . The organization thus should have an integrated approach to manage and develop employees and plan for their career advancement .Thus a lot of focused efforts need to go in this direction where the Leadership team of the organization will play a very vital role in defining and executing the talent management philosophy .

My take is that most companies have realized the importance of the succession planning process. But it is a complex process at the end of the day . To be successful we will have to view the entire talent management process holistically and have a well defined yet flexible approach to handle each dimension of the talent management process with a sharp eye on the business realities . This is a job which the HR function has to do in consultation with the senior management for the company . For this the HR professional needs to have to right tools , information and technique to carve an organization specific succession plan . These tools and techniques could comprise of :

  • Appropriate business knowledge ie organization’s products , revenue streams , competition intelligence
  • Knowledge of critical roles and possible career paths for them
  • Knowledge of various assessment methods ie 360 degree method , psychometric tools
  • Information of practices in other companies
  • Facilitation and coaching skills
  • Literature related to career development and talent management ie sites , books , certifications
  • A perspective or view based on the information about possible solutions and alternatives to the talent pipeline issue


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