3 reasons succession planning fails and what you can do about it

Written by Connie Gentry, Consulting Associate
Previously published by PSI Talent Management or Cubiks, prior to becoming Talogy.

Succession Planning is often viewed as many people view sorting through their sock drawer to try and find the missing match, which ones have holes in them and need to be thrown out, or to actually decide that they need to just buy some new socks.

It can be a tedious process and many organisations struggle to feel like they’ve got it right or have made the progress they want to make. When faced with the need to evaluate your organisation’s succession planning model, consider the following three reasons why succession planning fails, and what you can do to avoid making these missteps:

1) Lack of Support from the Executive Level

Nothing can sink a succession plan like lack of support and buy-in from the top. HR and management can lay the best plans, but if the executive level does not support and reinforce the necessary steps to implement the vision, it is all but moot. There is not a lot more that can be said. There are, however, some things that you can consider to be preemptive about gaining buy-in.

  • Come prepared to outline specifically the benefit and added value of investing in the training necessary to have a successful succession planning model.
  • Summarise the necessary steps. Specifically, what level of support and involvement are you expecting from each of the executive leaders?
  • Tie the succession planning objectives to measurable metrics or competencies by level; do those you have identified as high potential possess those competencies or where do they fall in regard to the next level?

2) Making Assumptions About an Individual’s Skills, Interest, and Abilities

Another common mistake is for management to make assumptions about the interest level, skills, and abilities of those whom they have identified as a high-potential performer to take to the next level.

  • Have you discussed your perceptions with them and gained their buy-in?
  • What have you done to genuinely help set them up for success by evaluating their skills and abilities; both at their current level and the next?
  • Remember, just because an employee may be good at his or her current job, and stands out as a star performer, that does not mean that they will make a good future leader.

3) Lack of Training for Developing High Potential Employees

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things that can derail a potentially successful succession plan is dropping the ball on implementing the training component of the equation. You may have an organisation with strong support from your executive team, and have appropriately and definitively identified those with the skills, interests, and abilities to move up in the organisation, but then fall short when it comes to providing them with the level of training and development to make it happen. Training should also be specific and targeted, not generic and all-encompassing.

  • Have you identified a set of core competencies on which to structure this individual’s training and development?
  • How easy is the process to implement and manage?
  • Are the results meaningful and do they allow for a clear understanding of how to take things to the next level?

What Can Your Organisation Do to Avoid These Succession Planning Pitfalls?

Now that you have given some thought about reasons successions planning fails, the next step is to build measures into your plan to avoid these pitfalls.

One objective that lends well to addressing all three of those areas is developmental assessments of your current workforce.

Assessment for Development and Succession Planning

Companies do it all of the time for selection purposes, but formal assessment for the purpose of development and training is often overlooked or much lower on the budget priority list. Too often, the decision of who is truly considered a high potential employee results based solely on a supervisor’s subjective input or the interest expressed by the individual seeking upward progression.

By identifying and implementing an assessment process tied to specific competencies and skill levels, you are providing your organisation’s leadership with the tools necessary to establish standardised, objective measures by which to evaluate any strengths and opportunities for those high-potential individuals who you are targeting for future promotion.

Gaining buy-in from executives, taking the time to identify high-potential candidates, and then assessing to determine strengths and developmental areas should help your organisation to find the “missing sock” in your sock drawer.

Identifying and selecting high-potential staff

We are facing a talent war.

Great leaders are hard to find and even harder to retain in a competitive global economy.

Now more than ever, identifying, developing, and engaging high-potential candidates is an important part of every successful organisation’s talent strategy. They know that their culture is driven by their leaders and they also know that high-performing leaders can be associated with all sorts of positive outcomes (e.g., increased retention of staff, higher employee engagement scores).

Download our white paper to find out:

  • What are indicators of potential?
  • How to identify and assess for potential
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