Propel Forward LLC Announces Tips to Maximize Succession Planning Results

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Many companies have succession plans that are unintentionally filled with sub-par candidates. To increase the identification of viable successors, Propel Forward LLC recommends rethinking your success measures.

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Succession Planning is not about increasing the volume of candidates; it's about identifying and preparing real successors.

When setting the key measures of success of a company’s succession plan, many companies measure how many positions have at least one internal candidate. They may even assess strength as having multiple internal candidates for each position. These may not be bad measures to consider but if they are the main measures they may be driving the wrong behavior in succession planning meetings. These volume measures encourage managers to list candidates who may not be a good fit and whose probability of being selected may be slim. Instead, think about the end game. A key measure should be the percentage of positions filled with a replacement identified in the succession plan.

Broaden the Definition of Success: Even when measuring a plan’s success as the number of replacements previously identified in the succession plan, many companies limit themselves to internally identified successors. To maximize success, expand the candidate pool to add the following:

1. The Targeted Hire: There are times when a leader already knows a key external player who would be a perfect replacement for a key position. Include the ability to list that person and create a recruitment plan. A great strategy is to bring in the external player early when an incumbent has a high risk of exiting. This way the external person can learn the company’s inner workings before being tasked with the full target position. If the incumbent is well aware of their departure (e.g. retirement), using a “two-in-a-box” approach can create a great transition. This is a technique enabling two people to share the leadership of a key strategic position. It can be used with both internal and external successors and allows the baton to be seamlessly passed when the incumbent exits.

2. The External Hire: There are usually several positions where an internal candidate is not going to be ready within the targeted timeframe. On the succession plan these positions usually get listed as “External Hire.” If the company is using volume success measures, managers may feel pressured to list an internal candidate even when he or she knows the likelihood of selection is low. Instead labeling the successor as an external hire can be the right answer. Jobs and the work environment are constantly changing and the knowledge and skills needed today may not be those you need for the future. This is not a reflection on the current staff since the previous skills were needed for the past and current environment. Now however, the opportunity exists to strategically plan for future needs. So once the “External Hire” label is applied, don’t stop the discussion. If this is a position where different skills are needed, change the label to “Strategic External Hire.” Next identify the competencies and characteristics needed and put a plan in place to recruit that candidate. It can take a long time to find the right candidate so making this one of the succession plan outcomes will set the company up for success. When measuring the success of the plan include these strategic replacements.

Measuring Successor Development: Assessing the preparedness of an internal candidate prior to placement will provide insight into the strength of a company’s succession development. Often candidates are placed before fully ready and end up in a sink or swim situation that is neither beneficial for the candidate nor the company. A great success measure of development is the success rate of placed individuals one year post placement as measured by performance ratings and turnover. When the candidate’s manager and mentor are accountable to this measure it drives the preparation needed for the candidate’s success.

When companies set strategy they ensure the measures of success drive the right effort and results. The same is true of both succession planning and succession development.

ABOUT Propel Forward LLC:
Propel Forward LLC is a business consulting firm providing consulting, coaching and learning solutions on vision, strategy, organizational design, culture and leader capability. Owner Carlann Fergusson is an expert with twenty-five years of experience with global Fortune 500 companies, privately owned businesses, state and federal governments, and non-profits. Today, Carlann brings proven diagnostic skills and keen insights to deliver solutions tied to your desired business results.

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Carlann Fergusson
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