Is Your Succession Plan Transparent?

February 18th, 2016 by
Rick Washburn, A&R Manager

Rick Washburn, A&R Manager

In today’s post, Advice & Resolution Manager Rick Washburn discusses the importance of creating a transparent succession plan for your business and fostering an open dialogue between managers and employees regarding career development.

Succession planning is at the very heart of any talent management program.  Done properly it is the process of identifying and/or developing talent for future business needs.

Is your succession plan transparent?  Do your business leaders have open dialogues about employee development, high-potential employees, and the like? Transparent succession plans create trust and the employee buy-in necessary to help the business retain top performers and reduce turn-over.  These plans also facilitate open discussions about career paths and development opportunities and helps leaders ensure that they do not unknowingly force top performers down paths that they would rather not go down.

The best succession plans, according to a 2012 Aon Hewitt study, drive proactive development of leaders and create distinct competitive advantages.  These plans are as transparent as possible and encourage trust and integrity, while minimizing internal politics.   In a 2010 Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) Leadership survey, 77% of the respondents said it was highly desirable for them to be formally identified and acknowledged as high-potential employees.

Transparency is also a key component of an organizations’ engagement and retention strategies. Leadership development plans that are communicated directly to succession plan participants is a vital element of these strategies.  Employees appreciate the time and effort that is being invested on their behalf both today and in the future.   According to a 2014 Towers Watson survey, more than half of the employers surveyed reported having difficulty retaining high-potential employees.  Letting your employees know that their skills and experience are valued dissuades top performers from leaving.

As mentioned above, it is also important to discuss career aspirations with employees to determine their level of interest in opportunities within your business.  A specific skill may not align with an employee’s ambitions.  Being upfront and open with employees leads to both more effective succession plans and more engaged leaders in your business.

So then, why do many employers struggle with the question of how and when to tell high potential employees (HIPOTS) they are high potentials?  One reason may be because of the risks of disengaging other employees who aren’t considered as HIPOTS.

To avoid this problem, Barry Conchie, a Gallup Senior Scientist and coauthor of the bestseller Strengths Based Leadership recommends that “Before a company says anything to its high-potential leaders, it must determine the criteria that it will use to identify top leadership talent.  Those criteria must be explicit and public. It’s important for people to know what qualifies them to be on the list.”  Conchie notes that many companies select leaders based on personality traits or likability, not demonstrated leadership talent.  This can damage engagement among other employees who think they should be leaders but were not picked.

Another barrier is that once you tell someone they are a HIPOT, if they don’t feel the love from you in terms of development, assignments, and even compensation some are apt to look elsewhere.   Notes Conchie, “you have to pay them what they’re worth or they’ll leave…They have to feel special because they are special. There are harsh economic realities here.”

For any assistance in developing or improving upon your business’s succession plan please give Tom Sheehan (919-325-4113) or myself (919-713-5247) a call today.

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