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Succession management: how to develop a 'talent strategy' for your business.

Succession planning is a process that offers a company a roadmap for developing future leaders. Tied directly to a company's business strategy, succession planning requires experience and finesse. Succession management improves senior team capabilities, ensures organization continuity and reduces talent shortages, eliminating more than 25 percent of the causes of revenue stalls.

Developing a "talent strategy" that supports the business strategy leads to successful business results. A talent strategy is nothing more than getting the right people into the right positions, doing the right things. Typically, talent management involves HR analyzing information on projected vacancies in key positions, having staff assess their own people and coming to a consensus of needs and then putting development plans in place.

Here are the key steps of succession planning:

Clarify future talent needs -- The planning process starts with your business strategy. Is your company/industry in a growth mode or is it contracting? Are there new technologies, processes or trends emerging that will affect your industry and require your staff to acquire new skills? What positions will make a difference to the success of your organization? Asking these questions will clarify your future talent needs and will help you develop an overall talent strategy. Once you determine your future talent needs, the next step is to assess current talent. Start with positions that need successors, do you know what you are looking for? What types of skills and behaviors, knowledge and experience are needed? Are you matching a person's skills/behaviors, knowledge and experience to that needed for a position? Train your managers in how to assess people. Partner with human resources staff to train managers to use tools such as behavioral observations, structured interviews or simulations.

Identify professional development needs of your staff -- Based on your assessment of current talent and future needs, implement relevant professional development opportunities. These may include leadership coaching and development or classes to upgrade technical skills or seminars on industry trends. Working with HR, programs can be internally developed. Or, tap into your business partners' expertise and other outside resources that can provide specialized training for managers. Concentrate on the foundation of development: knowledge, skills and experience.

Map opportunities for people to grow within the company -- Establishing a formal rotation for key management positions will enhance executive development and achieve company goals. Create career ladders that give people a sense of making progress. By moving through these various positions, managers become familiar with key operations facilitating communication among departments or divisions leading to higher productivity and efficiencies. Provide developmental assignments that stretch people in ways that align with business needs. This allows managers to become confident in their abilities to accomplish objectives and lead diverse teams as they move not only up through the ranks but across functions.

Identify high-potential talent -- Do you know who are the next generation of leaders in your company? Your HR team can help you identify high potential candidates. Assess their strengths and talents. Create a professional development plan for them taking them through the right rotations and providing skill-building opportunities. Remember that people may move on and off your high potential list as their skill levels and the needs of the business change.

Design succession plan -- Senior executive succession is a confidential and sensitive process requiring experience and finesse. Your Board, your senior team and HR must work together to design and implement a process that fits your company's unique requirements and challenges. Succession planning also includes identifying retention opportunities. What do your employees value most? Review benefits, opportunities to grow within the company and on-the-job learning opportunities. Research suggests that the cost of replacing a valued employee ranges from 100 percent to 300 percent annual salary, not including lost productivity, lost business impact on customer satisfaction, decrease in morale and loss of intellectual capital. Retaining your high-potential talent reduces your exposure to these costs.

By Elyse Sutherland, Ph.D.

Elyse Sutherland, Ph.D., is executive vice president and managing director of organizational consulting services at Right Management Consultants, Great Lakes Region, in Southfield, a member of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

For more articles, tips and resources on workforce development, visit the Detroit Regional Chamber's Workforce Central at
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Title Annotation:Workforce Development
Author:Sutherland, Elyse
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2003
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