HR must take lead in succession planning

As a global HR leader, you have the challenge of truly delivering the right
people in the right place at the right time and at the right cost. Your ability
to do this could be the key to enterprise success going forward.

It is important here that we focus not on the simple act of managing talent,
but rather on the results. Effectively managed talent provides your
organisation with managerial consistency and organisational resiliency. Many
companies don’t even have the rudimentary components of succession planning in
place – at great risk to themselves.

There are many ways to do succession planning, ranging from enterprise
resource planning (ERPs) to collating a simple three-ring binder. My advice is
not to dumb-down succession planning, but rather to demonstrate that it can be
done simply and without spending the GDP of Denmark in the process.

When doing this, you must look within your organisation at both the roles
and the people. Simultaneously, you must also look across borders – your best
people may not be sitting at headquarters.

First, it is necessary to look at your key executive positions globally –
not the people in them just yet, only the role. Assume a key employee has
unexpectedly met his demise. Ask yourself who is ready for that job today? Are
they mobile? Who will be ready in six to 12 months? What experiences do they

Next, you must turn your attention to the individuals in the top levels of
your organisation. How many of them have you identified as being capable of
another two or more level jumps? Have you had discussions to understand their
backgrounds, their goals? Do you understand where they are going, and whether
your company is still on their radar screen? What sense do they have about
where they are against the skills and experiences needed for the future role?

Once you have an understanding of these two areas, you are able to build a
simple, but elegant resiliency document. Your document will contain your top
suspects for each of your main functions, including country general managers.
Then, you have also got one-pagers on your top 5 per cent or so of people. You
don’t need to have heavy data, just enough to prompt an early conversation.

From there, your regular meetings with country management and senior
functional executives should always include updates about specific roles and

I am challenging you to enable a succession planning mindset to take root in
your organisation, regardless of size. Pay no heed to the software salesman who
offers elaborate, expensive packages that can track a billion careers from
pre-school to business school. They are nice, but not required.

My message here is that organisational resiliency is critical, regardless of
your turnover. As an HR leader, you must start the planning process, if only in
a simple paper and pencil format.

Sometimes, the first step is both the simplest and the hardest to make.

By Lance Richards, Senior director of international HR for Kelly Services
and advisor to SHRM

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