Manual The Talent Wave: Why Succession Planning Fails and What to Do About It

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Business planning. Chief executive officers--Selection and appointment.

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Executive succession--Planning. Organizational effectiveness.

More Details author. Clutterbuck, David. Introduction -- What's wrong with succession planning? Succession planning was once the key to identifying potential leaders to fill important positions. In a climate of growing skills shortages and lack of confidence in leadership potential, David Clutterbuck offers a new a process of dialogue between an organization and its employees.

The Talent Wave presents a dynamic, flexible approach to succession planning and talent management. Clutterbuck first demolishes most of accepted practice in these areas, and then presents practical solutions which align employee ambitions and business priorities to ensure that organizations have the right leadership in place for ongoing success. The aim is for the organisation to be able to fill key roles effectively if the current post holder were to leave the organisation.

Why Succession Planning Fails and What to do about it

A first step is to identify the business-critical positions or roles in the organisation for which potential successors are needed. One example could be non-leadership technical roles that could leave an organisation vulnerable, if unfilled promptly. Succession planning typically covers the most senior jobs in the organisation, together with short-term and longer-term successors for these posts.

The latter group are in effect on a fast-track and may be developed through job moves or secondments within various parts of the business. This focus on the most senior posts means that even in large organisations, only a few hundred people at any given time would be subject to the succession planning process. The relatively low numbers involved can help make the process more manageable. That said, many large organisations attempt to operate devolved models in divisions, sites or countries where the same or similar processes are applied to a wider population.

While some jobs will always require specialists, there is a growing focus on identifying and developing groups of jobs to enable potential successors to be identified for a variety of roles. The aim is to develop pools of talented people, each of whom is adaptable and capable of filling a number of roles. Because succession planning is concerned with developing longer-term successors as well as short-term replacements, each pool will be considerably larger than the range of posts it covers.

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Traditionally, large blue-chip companies ran highly-structured, confidential and top-down succession schemes aimed at identifying internal successors for key posts and planning their career paths to provide the necessary range of experience. But with growing uncertainty, increasing speed of change in the business environment and flatter structures, succession planning of this sort has declined.

A further problem with traditional succession planning was that it failed to take account of non-managerial roles — a brilliant scientist, for example, who might be crucial to the future of the organisation and who wanted to stay in a research role. In a climate of enduring skills shortages and research suggesting there's a lack of confidence in the leadership potential within the existing workforce, interest in succession planning has revived.

Yet, recent reports suggest that despite growing investment in leadership development, the improvement in leader quality has stalled.


Our research report Leadership — easier said than done looks at the barriers to leadership and good people management in practice, and emphasises that development of future leaders has to be aligned with supportive organisational processes reward and recognition, decision-making, cross-functional working and organisational culture.

Modern succession planning looks quite different from the old version, with a broader vision, greater openness and diversity and closer links to wider talent management practices. For example, progressive organisations who adopt an inclusive whole workforce approach to managing and developing talent will look to identify business critical roles at multiple levels within their organisation.

Talent management covers a wide range of activities designed to attract, recruit, identify, develop, engage, retain and deploy talented individuals — with a focus on attracting external talent as well as nurturing internal talent. All organisations need new recruits directly at senior levels to bring in new ideas and approaches to newly-created or unanticipated roles.

Many, however, seem to rely either too much on outsiders or too much on insiders, suggesting that it is difficult to find the right balance. It's also sometimes argued that outsiders should not be brought in at board level but somewhere below it, so that people with outside experience can become accustomed to the corporate culture and undergo development before making the next step up.

Why Succession Planning is essential: The Case of the Runaway Talent

Others, though, argue that if an objective business case can be made for bringing in outsiders at board level, this should be done where appropriate, and in particular that a failing business needs to recruit from outside - and to be seen to be doing so - to satisfy investors. While many employers aim to attract certain highly-talented individuals from outside the organisation for key or senior positions, this aim is likely to be balanced by a desire to promote widely from the home-grown talent pool.

This will be particularly relevant where there is a high degree of organisation-specific knowledge, for example in the case of IT professionals in business-critical roles. Some commentators believe that leaders developed from within tend to be more successful than those brought in from outside. Succession planning can help with keeping talented individuals as they are made aware of internal opportunities available to them to progress their careers. Succession planning is therefore central to the internal element of talent management programmes.

A wide range of activities may be included in succession planning programmes, both formal and informal training and development processes together, with a crucial focus on attaining relevant work experience - see more in our management development factsheet. In the past people have tended to gain experience by upward moves, with accompanying increases in status and salary.

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Today that may not be possible because organisations are less hierarchical, with fewer management layers. A sideways move into a different job, perhaps without any additional compensation, may be an alternative way of gaining additional experience.

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Some organisations are taking advantage of secondment opportunities as a way of providing wider development opportunities to potential leaders. About the Book Find at your local library Description ""While talent "pools" are associated with stagnation, and "leadership pipelines" with constriction and inflexible paths, a "wave" is pure energy.

The book covers: - Why and how so many of the HR tools and processes, such as nine-box grids and competency frameworks, don't deliver value - How to make talent management and succession planning genuinely supportive of diversity objectives - The critical conversations organizations and their talented employees need to have - and how to make them happen - How to achieve more by controlling less Format Paperback Book, pages Language English Publisher Kogan Page Sep. Fall Clearance! It's the perfect time to enjoy a hot drink and good book!


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