Succession planning: the modern business Trump card

Arguably one of the biggest succession planning projects of the past year comes to a close today as US President, Barack Obama, hands over the baton to President-elect, Donald Trump, on Inauguration Day.

As with any transfer of power or position, succession planning is essential to optimizing end outcomes. When a person leaves an organization, they take with them all the knowledge and skills they have gained during their time at that organization and unless these are passed on to their successor – or at least recorded for the incoming replacement to refer to once they start their new role – organizational leaders expose themselves to increased business risk and reduced productivity.

Don’t be too focused on the top

While current media focus falls firmly on the man entering the Oval Office, what is less considered – or at least less reported – is the fact that a whole new administration team is about to enter the White House and make history too.

It’s an oversight that often occurs in business too because although most leaders understand the importance of succession planning in the context of wider business outcomes, many still fall short by focusing only on top executive roles. When considered that this omits 90-95% of the average workforce from business succession strategies, it becomes evident just how much companies could be losing as a result. Worse still, a recent survey confirmed that just one-in-three businesses has any sort of succession planning program in place.

Three steps to success(ion)

According to this Forbes article, there are several factors that should form part of any organizational succession strategy – and, despite some of these being very simple, their importance in business terms cannot be underestimated. Key steps include:

  1. Being strategic and prepared
  2. Focusing on the right skills set
  3. Communicating effectively

Above and beyond this, and to ensure all employees are acknowledged in a company’s HR succession plans, business and HR leaders also need to ensure systems that deliver actionable analytics relating to, for example, which employees are disengaged and/or whose productivity is waning.

The role of technology

This, of course, requires strong visibility and understanding of the workforce, and in today’s geographically disparate and highly diverse business world, that requires a modern HR Management System (HRMS) that can deliver real-time reporting and ongoing people analytics.

Armed with this HR tech-led insight, business decision-makers are better able to spot the signs of employee disengagement and predict more accurately when an employee is planning to leave their company.

And, while employees move on to new companies for different reasons, people analytics can piece together employee feedback with other HR data such as increased absence and short-notice mid-week vacation requests to highlight unusual behavior patterns. Data such as this can paint a clear picture of the individual employee, enabling leaders to either to try to re-engage them if they’re disengaged, or start rolling out appropriate succession plans. In many cases, all of this can happen before the disengaged employee has even handed in their notice!

Closing the skills gap

In addition to flagging instances of employee disengagement, modern HR and people systems can also identify company skills gaps, feeding this information to HR and business leaders who can then create and recruit for new roles that will deliver long-term business value. In this sense, knowledge really is power, and making decisions based on intelligence rather than ‘gut feel’ instinct supports a much more strategic business approach.

So, while the outcome of today’s transition of power remains to be seen, both the outgoing Democrats and incoming Republicans have no doubt been in full succession planning mode for some months now – and regardless of your political persuasion, most would attest to the importance of a smooth transition and effective handover, whether it’s in the context of politics or business.

To learn more about optimizing the entire employee journey from on-boarding right through to off-boarding and succession planning, please get in touch here.

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