Having a trained and ready “bench” of future leaders — to fill key roles as employees move on or retire from your organization — is certainly an easy goal to get behind. Alas, it’s not always an easy goal to achieve. HR and recruiting teams are busy often too busy to turn their attention inward, and succession planning, done right, can be complex and time-consuming. Not to mention, more urgent matters can frequently push succession planning down the priority list. It’s a precarious position to be in — but it’s not uncommon.
Fortunately, there are best practices and solutions that can help. First, a quick review:
Why Succession Planning Is Important
Strong leadership is indisputably key to business success and organizational health. When an important executive or manager leaves, the impact can be substantial — especially if there’s no one already lined up to fill the role.
Why do leaders leave? There’s retirement, of course, but there’s also the possibility of can’t-miss opportunities with competitors, as well as a simple misalignment between a company’s new strategic vision and a top employee’s strengths or career goals. It can be shocking when someone who has been integral to the business and company culture announces they’re moving on, yet it’s far less stressful with a solid succession plan in place.
Common Challenges in Succession Planning
One big issue in success planning we’ve already briefly touched on is urgency, or lack thereof. It’s easy to let succession planning slide when your team has plenty of other time-sensitive initiatives to tackle. There are no immediate consequences to not having a strong bench, so matters with hard deadlines end up taking priority.
It’s also common to inadvertently let succession planning become an informal process, perhaps even basing it mostly on verbal exchanges. Example: An exec identifies a top performer on a team, designates her as likely successor to the manager, and communicates that to HR…and that’s the beginning and the end of “planning.”
A challenging offshoot of this informal approach is that bias can go unchecked. Even if it’s subconscious, people are likely to choose someone similar to themselves as successor — it’s human nature. When this happens, great (but diverse) candidates get overlooked, and the same model of employee moves up the ranks over and over again.
Finally, succession planning can easily fall out of sync with company vision and/or hiring strategy if not intentionally integrated — which, again, takes bandwidth your team may have otherwise allocated.
How AI-Based Talent Management Helps
A smart talent management solution powered by AI and machine learning takes much of the time-consuming tasks involved in succession planning off your plate. It also identifies the strongest potential leaders within your organization (without bias), and connects them to valuable development opportunities — automatically. Smart data matches skill sets to opportunities, alerting you when candidates are ready for a bigger role.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into each of these ideas.
Combining Succession Planning With Recruiting Pipelines
Internal candidates are often highly successful picks for succession. But sometimes, an external candidate is better for a particular opportunity. Smart talent management software connects succession planning with your recruiting process, so you can consider and evaluate both internal and external candidates simultaneously. You’re empowered to choose the absolute best candidate, with confidence.
A Built-In Focus on Development
A machine learning-based talent management system employs capability assessments for both existing and prospective employees, and intelligently connects each of them with personalized recommendations for stretch projects, training programs, and leadership opportunities. Your entire candidate pool — internal and external — is being developed and trained continuously, with no heavy lifting on your part.
Intelligent Matching and Data-Based Decisions
Machine learning uncovers the traits and skills needed to be successful in your key roles, and finds those attributes in candidates — candidates you may have otherwise overlooked. Bias is mitigated and the right person for the job becomes clear. No second guesses.
Don’t let succession planning slip through the cracks. You can manage it efficiently and effectively with the right tools and tactics — and the “smart” approach has significant spillover benefits. Want more details? Learn more about smart talent management here.