ABSP: Always Be Succession Planning

In the fast paced world of business, it can take long hours and intense focus just to keep up. Keeping up, however, is not enough. To remain relevant in the long term it is imperative to stay a few steps ahead, planning for paradigm shifting developments in technology, law and culture. This requires vision with regards to R&D, capital, marketing and more. It also means having the right team in place, not just today, but for tomorrow, whatever the future might bring. Diligent boards understand that a little succession planning goes a long way. When looking to ensure that your future team is as talented and comprehensive as your current one (or more so!), the following advice is worth keeping in mind. 

Succession Planning is Ongoing: Plan Ahead

People leave. They resign, get fired, retire or otherwise walk out the door. A company that scrambles to replace talent after the unexpected happens is somewhat akin to the frazzled shopper looking for a parking spot at the mall on December 24th.

“At the most senior level, we have conversations with our executive directors every quarter about succession plans and new roles that may be coming up,” says Sarah Totham, Director of Talent and Organisational Development, Legal & General at GAIA HR Consultancy. [1]

The front office of a major league baseball team will not feel confident starting the season with just enough solid arms to make up a pitching staff. Experience tells them they will need backup hurlers when injury or individual struggles deplete the staff. It pays for all companies to think this way. In sales they have ‘ABC’ (Always Be Closing). ABSP may not have the same ring to it, but it really does pay to always be succession planning. 

Top Talent Can Come from Anywhere

Sometimes there will be ‘Prince Charles Candidates’; seemingly obvious successors waiting in the wings, ready to assume a coveted position when their predecessor finally vacates the role. Nonetheless, it always pays to keep an open mind. Exceptional talent from other organizations may grow impatient with their slow trajectory, and can be plucked if a more expedited career path can be presented. Conversely, the right person to replace an outgoing all star may be toiling quietly, yet excellently, within your own organization. They key is to have a keen eye for matching skill sets with positions, which leads to our next point…

Assess for Success

It seems there are as many models for assessing aptitudes, personality types and ‘company fit’ as there are fish in the sea. What’s key is to tackle the task of assessment diligently and with an open mind. What really drives success in a particular role? Is direct experience a must have? Is it preferable to locate somebody with the innate aptitudes for excellence in a position and teach them the ropes? 

“Performance refers to their current performance at their current position, Potential refers to their ability to learn a new task and incorporate their skills into higher-level positions,” writes Kalley Anderson, Director of Marketing, Trackstar. [1]

Lists of potential successors for any given position should be in place at any time. Upside potential should be considered when hiring, even for lower level roles. If hiring internally, who will replace the replacement? 

Get ‘Er Done

“Do or do not, there is no try” says Yoda, the beloved green Jedi of Star Wars fame. The same holds true for succession planning. 

“Plans do not develop anyone — only development experiences develop people,” writes Marshall Goldsmith for the Harvard Business Review.

“The metrics a company could establish for Succession Development might include goals like the percent of executive level vacancies that are actually filled with an internal promotion vs. an external hire, or the percent of promotions that actually come from the high-potential pool.” [2]

Keep your pipeline stacked with candidates. Advance your talent by investing in education and training. Allow employees to diversify their responsibilities and keep a close eye on the results. 

While it may be impossible to anticipate what the future has in store, making succession planning a priority will make change, either expected or unexpected, easier to deal with. Succession planning should be lead from the top. HR should be given a seat at the table and outside recruitment agencies should be consulted for their depth of knowledge on industry standards and talent availability. 

Cited Sources
1 Welsh, John. “7 Steps To Successful Succession Planning.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, January 17, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnwelsheurope/2019/01/14/7-steps-to-successful-succession-planning/#108d388b45fb.
2 Goldsmith, Marshall. “4 Tips for Efficient Succession Planning.” Harvard Business Review, July 23, 2014. https://hbr.org/2009/05/change-succession-planning-to.
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Henry Goldbeck

Henry E. Goldbeck, President of Goldbeck Recruiting Inc, is a Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) and founded Goldbeck Recruiting in 1997. Since then, Henry has built the company's reputation as a leading headhunter and recruitment agency in sales, marketing, operations, engineering, and executive level positions across a variety of industries.

President & CEO at Goldbeck Recruiting Inc.