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Succession Development: the four stages of talent management

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Be prepared for the unexpected.  Companies that purposefully develop their leadership talent for succession avoid costly risks and maintain their competitive edge.

“The real key in succession management is to create a match between the organization's future needs and the aspirations of individuals. The only way to keep talented people is to provide them with growth opportunities that keep them stretching and finding more promising opportunities they might find elsewhere. The average college graduate will change jobs five times in his or her career. Within the next decade, this norm will probably increase to seven job changes. Recruiting and retaining leaders becomes an economic and strategic challenge.“ Graziadio Business Report, Pepperdine University

Short-term Succession Replacement

Short-term replacement planning is focused on an urgent need caused by a sudden development within the organization - unexpected attrition, business expansion, etc – without an identified, trained successor. This method can create a risk to the company through lost expertise and knowledge, so it is critical to select the best candidate, whether internal or external.  Benchmarking the job and making an unbiased comparison of potential candidates against that benchmark is crucial.

Long-term Succession Development

Talent management focuses on the future needs of the organization. Working within the strategic framework for the company’s future goals, the company identifies the positions necessary for growth and the best candidates to fill those roles. If companies wish to grow leaders from within their existing talent pool and have the time and resources to develop a useful program, effective talent management will become a key component of its long-term human capital strategy.

Keep the process simple! Succession management can be made too complicated by elaborate forms and processes. When this happens, the process usually dominates the discussion rather than the talents, skills, and knowledge of the candidates.

The Four Stages of Succession Development


Analysis - The Analysis stage determines which positions deserve succession planning, what each position needs, and who should be included in succession development.

  • Where are the company/organization risks and opportunities in the next 2-5 years?  Where are the expected, and potentially unexpected, future succession needs?  Align succession development with the overall business strategy. Line executives are much more likely to support a system that clearly reinforces corporate goals and objectives.  How will success of the succession process be measured?
  • Once the positions are identified, the analysis moves to developing a solid understanding of the skills, experiences, behaviors and leadership attributes the successor will need to succeed in those positions. We should fight the tendency to think the answer is to find a younger version of the incumbent and instead focus on what the job needs to be successful. Benchmarking these key jobs creates an accurate and unbiased method for understand the needs of the job. We’ll discover the behaviors and attributes that all leaders should have and which are unique to the job.
  • Next we identify the internal candidates for the succession pool.  Companies often select leaders that closely match the skills and experience portion of the requirements; but ignore the more crucial and difficult to develop areas of leadership attributes.  By assessing the candidates and comparing against the benchmark, we can determine both strengths and gaps.  Best practice indicates the identification of a small number of people who could be made ready in two to four years.
  • · Finally, are there positions without strong succession candidates?  Should external candidates be considered and, if so, when?

Development - The Development stage builds the talent pool needed for succession.

  • Timing is critical.  Without good planning, candidates are either too quick or too slow to develop; those ready too soon become targets for headhunters, while those not yet ready put the company at risk.
  • Skills and experience gaps can be filled using rotational assignments, lateral promotions, mentoring and training.  Executive coaching focuses on development of key leadership attributes, communication skills, presence and business relationships.
  • Continue to review the succession process and check the progress of individual development plans.

Selection - The Selection stage makes the final choice.

  • As the time for the transition approaches, the identified candidates should be ready for promotion. The selection best practice involves interviews, presentations and final assessment of all candidates against the established benchmark for the position. The step is especially critical when considering external candidates where there is an incomplete picture of demonstrated performance.
On-boarding - The On-boarding stage gets the leader up to speed on the job.
  • The development process should not end with filling the position. The benchmark and final assessment provide a roadmap for on-boarding. A coaching plan for the first six months to a year should be in place to ensure success in the new role and continue the development process.
Is your company serious about winning in the market? Contact Transitions For Business to get ahead and stay on top.
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  • Transitions For Business established a ground-breaking leadership and team development program at Best Friends Animal Society. Rescued horses from Horse Haven have renewed purpose as equine coaches in their new equine-facilitated learning program.
  • Teresa Pool has been chosen by the International Coach Federation as a breakout presenter at the 2016 ICF conference in Indianapolis..  She will partner with fellow MCCs Judy Feld and Sara Smith to demonstrate advanced coaching competencies.
  • The Next Level Coaching workshop, advanced competency training for coaches, is being offered again in Dallas in Spring 2016.  Stay tuned for dates and registration information.
  • The Transitions team worked with 18 senior level engineers on targeted presentation skills at The Missile Defense Agency in October 2015.

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