Succeeding with Succession

Succeeding with Succession

Meeting the new challenges of succession planning requires going much deeper in the workforce and, instead of just spotting high producers, identifying employees with high potential and guiding them along the path to achieving their full promise.

The biggest thing that is going on is a movement away from traditional succession planning. Today, instead of focusing on the top 25 or 50 employees, companies are pushing it further down in the organization and using it more as a development tool
While companies have often used technology to identify star performers who may be able to back up top executives, many are now using it to look at succession planning at other levels of the organization as well. This deeper look requires a much higher degree of technical sophistication to accommodate the larger number of employees at more levels in the organization.

If all a company needs to do is track who is going to replace a few senior executives, a simple spreadsheet or database may be all that is needed. With larger organizations, that is not adequate.
The size of the company clearly affects what software they should select. Smaller employers of up to 400 people can get by with PC-based systems, but when we start getting bigger than that we need to start thinking about more-complex systems.

Lauren Choate, assistant vice president of training and organizational development at Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Co has more than 6,000 employees, 850 of them managers in the company. An ordinary conventional system would not do for consideration of Succession Planning
It was clear to her that the company needed to bolster its succession planning process, but she also knew from experience that managers tend to view talent review or succession planning as extra work. So, when she started working on implementing a formal succession planning process, she was looking for technologies that would reduce the managers’ workload and cut through any resistance.

She used automation to make it easier for the manager and to make it easily repeatable for next year by having the information in the database.

Great-West had already been using Revexion Talent Management System for performance management. Because the software also comes with a succession planning module, it was simply a matter of activating those features.

The WisdomNet software pulls data from the SAP database, and employees update their own information, including their biography, education, certification and previous job experience. Managers then assess them on their leadership competencies, their potential and their future jobs, and identify who can serve as backups for the employees.

The technology side is not where the work is when it comes to succession planning; the real work is the process, the people and the goal.

After completing the evaluation process, managers run various reports and take them to the annual talent review meetings. They share some of the reports with other managers and use others for themselves.

The system was piloted in the 1st year with 300 managers, and planning is on expanding it to the full 850 managers in the 2nd year itself. Even those expected to resist the system say the process was worthwhile and it led to thoughtful dialogue about the staff. As a result, some employees were encouraged to leave, but many more were identified as having future jobs.

The system ought to be transparent and easy to use so it is viewed as a tool, not a hindrance.

An additional benefit of automating the succession planning process is that it broadly exposes information that previously might have been available to only a few people.
Automating the succession planning process produces several advantages for organizations. While it is hard to quantify the value of succession planning, there are some metrics available.
The more senior the position and the longer it takes to fill, productivity starts getting reduced, not just from that individual, but from the whole division while waiting for the new boss.
Whatever particular leadership development problem a company is seeking to address, a high-quality succession process is likely to be an integral part of the solution.