Four Essential Succession Planning Steps for 2017



A new year often inspires us to conduct a self-assessment, leading to self-improvement. This extends to organizations, including their approaches to talent management and succession planning.

Why succession planning in particular? Because this is a unique age of shifting demographics: no less than 10,000 Baby Boomers reach the traditional retirement age of 65 every day. Meanwhile, Millennials have already surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force, and will account for one-half of all employees by 2020.

Clearly, there’s a whole lot of turnover going on, and you and your talent-management team members have to stay on top of it. To do so, you must ensure that ongoing processes maintain continuity, even as veterans retire and younger staffers replace them. You have to match existing human capital-related priorities with evolving ones. (are proven, traditional recruitment tactics, for example, deployed through the latest, most popular social media outlets?) You should assess the present corporate culture so engagement drivers – training/development/career growth initiatives, meaningful work assignments, effective communications/feedback, the “fun” factor, etc. – serve as a means to successfully retain valued contributors.

Then, in the “bigger-picture” perspective, you must apply workforce requirements to your organization’s overarching strategic and operational vision. This speaks to what we have discussed previously in our blog space as workforce planning, which is generally defined as a “continual process used to align the needs and priorities of an organization with those of its workforce to ensure it meets its legislative, regulatory, service and production requirements and strategic objectives.” Such planning poses significant challenges, as nearly one-half of HR leaders say, at best, it is only “partly true” that they have developed a clear linkage between their workforce strategy and their business one.

So, with 2017 upon us, how should you and your talent-management team evaluate the current state of your succession program and address improvement areas? You can start with the following “building-block” steps:

  • Identify existing talent. Come up with a department-by-department, location-by-location breakdown of the skills that are available right now.
  • Identify gaps. Determine where required skills – those which support both process/operational continuity and long-term objectives – are lacking.
  • Find “best fits”/high-potential employees. Consider these highly capable, highly motivated professionals as the future of your organization – young people targeted for leadership development to make for seamless successions. At the same time, don’t overlook the cultivation of engagement/growth of those who are relatively new but very good at their jobs, but may not represent tomorrow’s top leaders. Before long, they could grow to support critical roles such as the mid-level manager and the ever-productive, inevitably indispensable “go to” staffer.
  • Develop the plan. The details of your plan depend greatly upon your organization’s culture, short-term goals, day-to-day tasks/practices, etc. But it should still follow the broader, constantly evolving blueprint of a workforce planning program.

If the building blocks here appear overwhelming, that’s understandable – especially if you pursue them via manual tools. There’s a wealth of data attached to talent management/succession efforts, after all. You can’t capture, store, examine and make actionable decisions from big data through outdated, legacy tech which isn’t automated and integrated enterprise-wide.

That’s where modern people analytics solutions come into play: they instantly find gaps that exist within your recruitment, on-boarding and development pipelines, so you can address them in real-time. In addition, thanks to superior analytics-fueled forecasting, you can map out pending retirements which will occur six months, a year, three years and five years down the road. Then, you leverage the same solutions to identify who will replace these veterans, and establish training and mentorship opportunities accordingly. And if your current workforce can’t adequately support future needs created by vacancies, analytics will help you precisely frame recruitment strategies so you’re targeting external candidates who can readily fill in the roles.

Blueprint Download: A data-driven approach to identifying, retaining and developing talent

In our “real” lives, many of us make promises during the new year, whether we vow to exercise more or eat better. That said, in our roles as talent-management team leaders/members, we should also inventory our accomplishments and needs on no less than an annual basis (more often is better), as part of a commitment to continuous improvement. Fortunately, analytics will allow you to navigate the essential steps of succession more quickly and – as opposed to training for a marathon, or going on a crash diet of carrot sticks and water – more easily.



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