CEO reveals the biggest HR succession planning mistakes

Only 30% of organizations feel their succession planning process is effective

CEO reveals the biggest HR succession planning mistakes

When it comes to planning your talent streams, employers need to stop falling into the “just like me” syndrome. Speaking to Peter Demangos, CEO and co-founder of SuccessionHR, he tells HRD that the biggest mistake in succession planning is assuming you need to hire someone who’s a carbon copy of yourself.

“It’s tempting to promote those like us instead of objectively evaluating what is required,” he says. “They don’t have to have gone to the same college or have the same degree or the same mindset – you need to look at the specific set of skills that job requires and hire for that.”

Having spent his career helping organizations future-proof their talent streams, Demangos has seen all the pitfalls companies often find themselves in. One of the most insidious, he tells HRD, is a total lack of a development plan.

“A development plan for succession planning is unique to other development plans,” he says. “There should be specific tasks required for this candidate to be ready now for this key role, and not their current role. We recommend three to seven tasks that’re time bound and specific to this succession path. Common categories of tasks include jobs, projects, mentorship, and courses.”

A lack of clarity in succession planning

By neglecting your succession planning, you’re only leaving your company open to issues further down the line. In a survey by Harvard Business Review, only 30% of organizations felt that their succession planning process was effective – with just 18% of smaller businesses actually having a plan in place. For Demangos, he thinks that employers need to start rectifying their mistakes sooner rather than later. After all, succession planning should be a preventative measure – not a curative one.

“Employers need to have succession plans in place for not only Board and Executive roles, but also managerial ones,” he tells HRD. “This ‘key role’ is one that has a significant impact on your organization’s ability to conduct normal business. When this role becomes vacant, it’s important to ensure the right candidate is ready to step in. From there, determine the minimum number of candidates required to be considered a healthy pool. It’s important to customize by key role to ensure proper risk mitigation.

“Continuously monitor changes in your critical succession planning data such as pool health, candidate readiness, development plans and even diversity metrics. You want to ensure that your results meet the goals set by your organization. And finally, ensure your managers are properly trained. Ensure they know the guidelines around identifying future leaders – such as how to recognize a flight risk or red flag, and best practice on how to create a development plan to get candidates to a point of ‘ready now’.”

Top down meets bottom up

As for the future of succession planning, Demangos reveals that this year organizations should be focusing on the importance of diversity and inclusion.

“Employers need to recognize the importance of DEI in their leadership positions and make conscious decisions around that,” he tells HRD. “Be aware of the increased use of technology to identify and develop talent that you may otherwise not be able to easily identify yourself, too.

“Finally, I’d remind employers that top down and bottom up must meet. Traditional succession planning is focused on protecting the key roles of the organization, which typically identifies the cream of the crop talent that make it to the candidate list. On the other end are all the remaining employees, many of which are future leaders, that have skills and ambitions that are not as easily captured. Somewhere in the middle, there is a perfect harmony that matches the goals of the organization with that of all its employees.”

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