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Time to Drop Succession Plans?

Is it time to drop succession plans? That was the email title I got from Lucy Adams whose work I greatly admire (Remember, I told you to be careful who you learn from).

Her article explained why succession plans don't work and we all know this. As part of HR update 7.0, this needs to be looked at and changed completely. But how?

How do we plan for something that is completely out of our control? Whilst I agree on a few points with Lucy I think limiting succession plans to one person is the greatest mistake. It leaves us with no plan the moment the person decides to leave. Companies are not the Royal family that you know for sure who is next in line to the throne and you can prepare the successor. So here is what I had in mind for a few years now when I realised at my company of 300K employees that our succession plan is bonkers. Nobody has ever succeeded with that plan.

It needs to be an organisational-wide succession plan through a talent database.

Imagine a system where you have all your employees' profiles with their specific talent, skills, expertise, experience, desired roles, mobility, AND the next suitable role that the person is currently being prepared for. I would not include the annual appraisal because it is as biased as my grandmother but I would include a box (ticked or unticked) indicating that the person can be contacted from within the organisation for roles at other locations. This would simply take away the task of me going to my supervisor asking "permission" to apply or HR sending an email to HR asking if they can interview me. I cannot stand this process.

Employees would have access to their own profiles (transparency) and ideally would be updating info together with their line managers. It could include training they have attended, programs they are currently undergoing as part of their preparation for the next role etc.

Managers and above would have access to the entire database to search for candidates. So when they need a Director of Finance they would enter in the filter:

  • Desired skills, knowledge, expertise

  • Qualification/Training maybe in-house training program participation

  • The progress they made in the preparation for the next role

  • Are they ready for the next role and if not when will they be, so hiring managers can start planning and communicating with the other manager and employee and accelerate the persons' development.

  • Open to moving to a certain location

  • Language etc.

Whilst traditional succession planning focuses on specific roles this would give opportunity for employees at all levels. It would also help decrease biases and problems Lucy Adams outlined in her article.

We have so much talent within organisations that are unnoticed and therefore leave. What if we gave them visibility? This process would also encourage managers to prepare their staff and employees to learn and prepare themselves because they would understand that opportunities are plenty and people are watching.

Many times people are not motivated to develop themselves because they cannot see succession opportunities within their company, department or immediate work location. So they move to the competitors. Why? Because they see those opportunities in the job advertisement.

Why don't we work around this and purposefully prepare them for us even if it is in another location within the organisation?

This is how I imagine succession planning. How do you?

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