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Succession Planning with Claudia Cadena, Founder of Thread Advisory

From an outside-in perspective, what do clients lack/overlook/forget when developing a succession planning programme?

In my experience, the following are some of the things which clients tend to overlook when developing succession planning programmes:

  • Certain organizations limit succession programmes to top management positions, leaving critical operational positions at other organizational levels without identified potential successors. This may pose a significant risk to business continuity if no adequate potential successors are identified and prepared in case of any future eventuality. 
  • Some leaders involved in the succession planning process tend to benchmark potential successors against the current incumbent instead of benchmarking them against the role requirements. Doing this may put the organization at a disadvantage, especially if the current incumbent is performing at a level that is incongruent (lower or higher) with the actual role requirements. Any potential successor should always be benchmarked and prepared in consideration of the role requirements.
  • Many organizations place the ownership of succession planning with HR. In my opinion, this may not lead to the best outcome. HR is certainly responsible for ensuring that the policy and programme are designed and implemented. However, the success of the programme is a shared responsibility between HR, the talent panel members, the identified incumbents and their respective managers. Each of the mentioned players has a specific responsibility for the success of the programme. 

What are 3 key factors companies should keep in mind when building a succession planning programme?

In my opinion, the key factors that organizations should keep in mind when building robust succession planning programmes are:

  • Succession Across All Levels. The programme should cover identified critical roles throughout the entire organizational hierarchy. 
  • Talent Pool Management. A dynamic successor talent pool should be maintained at all times. People can come in and out of the pool depending on how they perform and develop/demonstrate their potential over time. 
  • Review and Adaptation. Development plans and interventions should be dynamic and flexible in order to ensure that individuals are being prepared based on the ever-changing business realities and priorities. 

What practices can help scale succession planning in an organization?

Succession planning should be considered as part of an integrated approach of managing talent within an organization. It is for this reason that the following people practices are essential in ensuring that succession planning can be scaled up in any organization:

  • Role profiling. Having current and updated role profiles that are used to execute many practices like recruitment, development and succession is key.
  • Performance management. Having historical data about individuals’ performance becomes an important data point to be considered when evaluating potential successors.
  • 360-degree feedback. A mechanism to ascertain how the individual is perceived by those with whom he/she interacts on a regular basis. 
  • Training and development. Interventions that are deployed based on business and individual requirements to strengthen knowledge/skills/abilities. 
  • Mentoring / Coaching. A nurturing culture that allows employees to be guided and supported in their growth journey, towards improving their performance and potential to perform future roles. 

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