Succession planning has traditionally been centralized because it was only for the top elite of the organization. As business units grow and talent development becomes more decentralized, so does the development of management. However, business units often don’t incorporate succession planning at this level, because they fear their best people being taken away, if they flag them as high potential.
There are many arguments for either style of succession planning and, at times, a company may really need to look at both options. Sometimes, a manager just needs to sit down and sketch out his or her vision of succession planning. Some key questions to consider include:
- What would happen to my bench strength, if key players left and needed to be replaced?
- Have I trained people enough to shuffle the job titles and continue the department’s path to greatness?
- Can I plot career paths for upward growth, including my own, if I haven’t already planned for replacements?
Managers may occasionally be asked to submit recommendations for potential layoffs or departmental transfers to fill gaps in the workforce. If potential successors for key positions are not already identified, strategic people could be misplaced during any such organizational change.
The organization as a whole may need the ability to centrally manage – or provide the tools to decentrally collect – the ideas of the management team for the succession or replacement planning of the entire organization. The deeper the succession planning, the less it can be managed by HR and the more decentralized it needs to be. In this case, it’s critical that the data can be seen as a big-picture map of the organization and its workforce bench strength.
Peter Cappelli wrote a terrific Human Resource Executive Online article, Maximizing Talent Management
. One of my favorite tips from this article is:
“For example, in any set of managerial and executive jobs, there is a common set of competencies across them as well as a set that is specific to each subgroup. In terms of effectiveness and efficiency, the ideal approach is to treat the candidates as part of a common pool for as long as possible, developing all the competencies that are common across positions first and delaying those that differentiate functions and jobs until the last minute.”
Peter states, “…the biggest source of efficiency is the ability to pool the candidates and then redirect them across functions and jobs when the inevitable variations in demand occur.”
One certainty is that succession planning must be done, and it must be deep.