Succession Planning

by Martin Haworth

Step 7 – development plans and actions

With the information you have put together from informal and formal conversations with your people, you will now have an idea of what they each think of themselves and what potential may be lurking beneath the surface.

Without action, however, little is going to happen, so now it’s time to put into place the steps needed to progress towards the succession planning outcome that will benefit you, your organisation and your people.

Where you have identified gaps in the continued delivery of successful performance, you will also now have an idea of the potential of your people to fill these gaps.

As you have considered all the information that you have to hand, you will be able to work on a strategy for each key role to be covered into the future, as well as each individual moving towards filling those spaces as they develop.

By identifying the possibilities for the best potential candidates for specific future roles, you will be able to work with individuals to help them find the experiences that will make them better prepared for long-term development. In other words, bearing your vision and their plans in mind, you will be able to grasp opportunities to make individuals more fit for future roles by creating opportunities for them to develop along the way.

Such activities can be offered to them with little formal consideration for the future, as many of your employees will simply be excited about the chance to ‘do something different’ in their roles.

Where your people are engaged with agreed and formalised arrangements for their development, they are much more likely to act on the steps they agree upon. To make this work best

  • Make a positive fuss of the activity, by providing focused time and attention
  • Be aware that different people will respond differently and need different levels and types of support from you
  • Bring others along if their support is also needed
  • Ensure that ownership for action is very clearly the accountability of the individual – not you!

Development possibilities

It’s generally agreed that 70 per cent of development comes from working on the job, but in more challenging situations. So such experiences as temporary roles, work shadowing, delegated tasks, vacation cover and simply covering for absences, for example, will ideally suit many of those within whom you see value for the future.

In 20 per cent of cases, personal coaching and/or mentoring will make a significant difference, assuming you and/or other key people are able to provide the time. This is a role that needs to be reserved for specific situations because it will need some really focused attention and, when offered, will be especially valuable.

The final 10 per cent of development for individuals will come from particular training courses that are designed to fill a knowledge gap. When using these, it’s vital to get a return for your investment by ensuring that a good follow-up process is provided – one that demonstrates the new learning.

There is certainly value in highly targeted training, which can be developed through a plan over a period of time, enabling specific individuals to meet clearly defined needs.

Development of your key people along a planned course of action, designed for them as individuals, will usually entail a combination of all three of the above and there is no reason why this work cannot start almost immediately.

Tracking development

Tracking progress can be an activity you undertake from a distance. You can also do it semi-formally, along with other trusted members of a senior management team. Depending on how you set this up, you can also agree to manage development directly with an individual, making sure their expectations are managed, to prevent them becoming frustrated and disappointed if opportunities don’t come off.

Bearing in mind the expectations and hopes gleaned from your one-to-ones, remember that making offers that you may be unable to fulfil can be a dangerous mistake.

As you make ongoing progress with this activity, you can extend the opportunities to a broad range of individuals, so you have several candidates who are able to fill the holes in your succession planning, rather than developing one individual per gap.

As long as you have managed expectations, you will not have a problem with those who are not chosen, because they will have developed new skills themselves and will be much more engaged with the working environment.

Making plans

It’s time now to create development plans that make the shifts happen to achieve the outcomes you set out to. Plans that identify

  • Where the gaps in performance are
  • Where the gaps in people performance are
  • Where the short- and medium-term vulnerabilities are
  • Who has the potential
  • What those with potential will be doing to bring their skills up to the required level
  • Who has the accountability to develop these key people
  • How progress will be reviewed (see Regular fine adjustments).

When you are working with your people on this, make sure you give them the time and focus to help them realise that it’s important and valuable and worthy of their attention. Each individual is different and people will need varied levels of support.

Step seven activities

  • Identify potential individuals from your team who might benefit from additional development activity for roles that might be vulnerable.
  • Focus on ‘what’ you need and be creative about finding the ‘who’.
  • Create a simple development plan, possibly outside any existing frameworks that you have for these individuals, asking for their input where this may be of value.
  • Trial some experiences for these key people to develop them, noting any fine-tuning required to help them to do even better in the future.
  • Involve them in their development and, above all, ensure they take most of the ownership.
  • Utilise the skills of other key people to get them involved too.
  • Every quarter, review these actions with other key team members to assess whether value has been added by these development activities.
  • Create longer-term plans for as many individuals as you can appropriately manage while you skill up your whole workforce
  • Learn and review as you go, allowing progress to evolve.

To help you make more successes from the start, you can short-cut all the problems associated with ‘wrong people, wrong place’ by asking the right questions and selecting better people from the start.