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HR’s Role in Succession Planning

March 23, 2021

By Linda Olejniczak, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Is your organization prepared for the worst-case talent scenarios? Do you have a plan to transfer knowledge of your leaders at all levels? Have you identified high performers who can move into these roles? If not, you need a succession plan. 

Succession planning is the process of identifying, developing, and placing the right talent in critical roles to ensure the continued performance of the organization. In addition to the process, it requires ongoing program management to deliver the expected results. Our partners at McLean & Company have built several plans to assist you – from a high-value plan to an emergency plan.

The plans involve identifying business-critical roles in your organization and the selection and development of successors.  In the past, organizations tend to focus on C-suite roles, but they should identify business-critical roles at every level where not having a successor in the event of a sudden departure would cause significant disruption to the organization’s operations.

Key insights of succession planning include:

  • Succession planning is challenging. HR should not underestimate the complexity involved and important interlinkages with the other HR programs. Take a systematic approach to continuously and effectively identify the right people for critical roles.
  • The role of HR in succession planning is that of architect and facilitator. It is not to make key selection decisions on behalf of the organization.
  • Proactively communicating to employees about what succession planning is (and isn’t) prevents potential misconceptions and rumors.
  • A succession plan adds the most value to an organization when it is aligned with business priorities. Integrate succession planning with existing planning activities and hold leaders accountable for the outcomes.
  • Succession planning without integrated efforts for successor development is simply replacement planning. Get successors ready for promotion by ensuring a continuously monitored and customized development plan is in place.
  • Evaluation and iteration of your succession planning program are crucial for success because job requirements change often in today’s fast-paced environment, and people’s performance and career expectations evolve.

Through careful succession planning, you should never have a key role open for very long.  It mitigates the risk of lost knowledge by ensuring you consistently have the required skills and knowledge to meet business objectives and fill unexpected or expected vacancies.  The key is to recruit strong, talented employees and then prepare them for their next role as they develop within the organization.  Both small and large companies can benefit from succession planning that includes all levels of roles.

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