Current Trends And Practices In Succession Planning Commerce Essay


There are several critical trends that will further strengthen the transformation of succession management from a replacement tool to a development and leadership capability tool, thereby ensuring that systems and processes are responsive and less bureaucratic. Succession planning will continue to become more integrated into the everyday life of organizations, moving from a formal 'annual event' to become a part of the daily fabric of doing business. Technology will also integrate succession processes into the desktop computers of managers. A single icon will grant immediate and widespread access to succession planning information. Additionally, all of the components of HR management are being looked at, appropriately, as fully integrated, aligned systems, rather than as a set of disconnected activities. Gone is the silo mentality that kept HR from other business units. The hyper-competition of the contemporary world makes such an approach outdated and dangerous to the bottom line

Keywords: Trends, Succession planning, Best practice.


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Substantial change and organizational trends have caused traditional SPM approaches to become obsolete (Karaveli & Hall, 2003). Some of these important trends include (a) Shifting demographics that will result in a shortfall in the number of next generation organization leaders, as well as an increase in attrition in executive level positions. (b) Economic conditions that have resulted in massive downsizing and increasingly flat and dynamic organizational structures. (c) Reduced loyalty among employees while organizations are trying to build involved and engaging work environments. (d) Recognition on the part of senior executives of the importance of values, competencies, intellectual capital, and knowledge management. As a result, many organizations that engage in SPM have transitioned from traditional approaches that seek to identify and prepare leaders for specific future positions to processes that seek to identify and develop pools of talented individuals who can assume a variety of unknown future positions. Typically, these more agile processes are built around a core set of leadership best practices that drive assessment, development, and selection decisions.

Trends in Succession planning

Trend 1: The Need for Speed

Speed is only likely to become more important in the future. That sensitivity to speed is affecting human resources (HR) practices as well. Many companies keep statistics to see how long it takes to do the following:

Justify a position.

Recruit for and fill a vacancy.

Find talent to meet immediate needs or synchronize efforts.

Train people.

In a more stable era, it might have been acceptable to permit a long lead time between the justification and filling of a position, or the selection of a qualified person and the realization of full productivity from that worker following training. But stable times are gone. Time is a resource easily wasted, and people must be found and oriented so that they can become productive as quickly as possible.

Trend 2: A Seller's Market for Skills

Employers in many other parts of the world, have traditionally taken workers for granted. Many managers still assume that, if their organizations will only pay enough, they can always find the people they need to fill any position. But that assumption is not always valid anymore.

There are several reasons why.

First, the population is aging. Fewer workers are entering at the bottom of organizational pyramids because there are fewer workers of traditional entry-level age. Those new workers have a work ethic and values different from those of previous generations. Many prize a balance of work and personal life that does not match the frenetic pace of many organizations today, where number of work hours for the average manager is on the rise.

Second, more people are reaching traditional retirement ages. Some authorities contend that this will lead to a leadership shortage as senior managers, traditionally the oldest age group, take advantage of generous retirement plans. Other authorities, however, caution against assuming that people will retire at traditional ages in the future, since retirement plans and other benefits are less secure than they once were.

Third, until recently the U.S. economy sustained a broad expansion for the longest period in history. Many groups have benefited from this expansion. While there may be evidence that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, it is also true that virtually anyone in America who wants a job can find one somewhere. This means that workers can afford to be more selective about where they work, which creates a seller's market for skills.

Trend 3: Reduced Loyalty Among Employers and Workers

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There was a time when employees believed that they would get a job with one company and stay with that company until retirement. A stable employment record was considered an advantage during job interviews. Likewise, employers often assumed that, when they extended a job offer, they were establishing a long-term relationship with the worker. Even poor performers were tolerated, and sometimes moved out of the way and into harmless positions to preserve workers' feelings of trust and security with their employers. This, of course, is no longer the case. One result of the downsizing of the 1990s was that employers changed the employment contract. As competitive conditions became more fierce, organizational conditions became less stable. No longer were employers making a long-term commitment to their employees. A legacy of this change is that employees have become more interested in short-term gains, especially in salaries, titles, development opportunities, and benefits. They want immediate rewards for good performance, since they distrust their employers' abilities to reward them in the future for hard work performed in the present. They have changed from showing a tolerance for delayed gratification to demanding immediate gratification. This change in the employment contract has profound implications for traditional SP&M practices. Employees can no longer trust their employers to make good on promises of future advancement. And, given that attitude, employers can no longer count on high potentials or exemplary performers patiently performing for long periods before receiving rewards, advancement, or professional development. Speed is now as important in managing succession issues as it is in managing other aspects of organizational practice. Managers must manage against a backdrop with the possibility of losing valuable talent if they do not identify it quickly and offer prompt rewards and development opportunities.

Trend 4: The Importance of Intellectual Capital and Knowledge Management

Intellectual capital can be understood, at least in one sense, as the collective economic value of an organization's workforce. The effective use of intellectual capital is knowledge management. It is important to emphasize that, as the speed of decision making increases in organizational environments and operations, intellectual capital increases in value because it is essential for customers to deal with workers who know how to serve them quickly and effectively. This demands improved knowledge management of the workforce. While land, capital, and information can be readily obtained from other sources-and, on occasion, leased, outsourced, or purchased-the organization's workforce represents a key asset. Without people who know what the organization does to serve its customers and how it does that, no organization could continue to function.

The same principle applies to business organizations. While traditional managers may view people as a cost of doing business, thought leaders realize that people represent the only asset that really matters in a competitive environment. People dream up new products and services. People make the leap from the results of basic research to the commercialization of applied research. People come up with technological advancements and use those advancements to achieve improved productivity and quality. People serve the customers, make the products, ship them to consumers, bill them, deposit the proceeds, and manage the organization's resources. Without people, the competitive game is lost. That is a lesson that is, unfortunately, too easy to forget at a time when many people are awed by rapid technological advancement. Of course, those impressive technological advancements are pointless unless people make use of them. The implications of intellectual capital and knowledge management are important for SP&M. In a sense, succession planning and management is a means to an end. It is a tool of knowledge management; a means of ensuring that intellectual capital is properly serviced, retained, cultivated, and protected.

Trend 5: The Importance of Values and Competencies

People in organizations have high expectations of their leaders. These expectations are unlikely to diminish in the future. People want leaders who can get results and can, at the same time, model appropriate ethics. For these reasons, values and competencies have emerged as crucial to success in organizations. In the wake of high-profile scandals in the U.S. government, in other governments such as those of Japan and China, and in many businesses, values have emerged as a key issue of importance in organizational settings. Many multinational companies, for instance, have tried to address cultural differences by establishing core values honored internationally under one corporate umbrella. Competencies, while having different definitions, have also emerged as key to management decision making, human resource practice and SP&M programs. Values represent a moral dimension to the way leadership is exercised and work is performed. Competencies can represent the distinguishing features between high performers and average or below-average performers. More flexible than work activities or tasks, competency models are the glue that holds together a succession planning effort. The use of competency models is a distinguishing characteristic between traditional and cutting-edge SP&M programs. As work becomes more dynamic and divorced from the traditional ''boxes'' found on organization charts, there must still be a way to describe what performance is expected. Competency models have the advantage of providing that flexibility.

Trend 6: More Software to Support Succession

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There is more software available to support SP&M, though it sometimes masquerades under such alternative names as talent management, talent development, or human capital software. That is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because, when well formulated and implemented, software permits individuals and groups that are dispersed geographically to participate. Software can facilitate decision making on competency identification, values clarification, 360-degree assessment, individual development planning, identification of developmental resources to help build competencies (and thereby close developmental gaps), track individual progress (and thus encourage accountability), and even measure individuals' progress and the support provided by immediate supervisors. But it can be a curse because some people believe that, when they buy a technology solution, they are also buying the solutions to their succession problems. They think that the software will give them ready-made, off-the shelf, one-size-fits-all competency models, 360-degree assessments, individual development plans, tracking systems, and developmental methods. Of course, that is not true. Technology is like an empty glass. HR practitioners and senior managers cannot avoid the responsibility of filling the glass with corporate culture- specific competencies, overseeing individual progress, providing real-time mentoring and coaching, and offering much more than is embedded in the technology.

Trend 7: The Growing Activism of the Board of Directors

Boards of directors are beginning to take a more active role in SP&M. The evidence clearly points in that direction. One reason has been the Sarbanes- Oxley Act of 2002. A key effect of that act is to increase board accountability in business operations. And, of course, finding qualified successors for CEOs on down is an important issue that corporate boards must perennially address.

Trend 8: Growing Awareness of Similarities and Differences in Succession Issues Globally

One size does not fit all-and that is as true of succession planning as it is of anything else. Unfortunately, it is a lesson that some multinational corporations (MNCs) have never learned. An all-too-common scenario is that the corporate headquarters in Europe, the United States, or Japan will establish succession planning guidelines and then roll them out worldwide, forgetting that the world is a big place and national cultural differences do play a role in effective succession planning practices. The result is that, whatever the approach, it is only partly effective.

U.S. firms will generally prize individualists who can claim credit for what they have done on their own. That is not true in other cultures, where a willingness to ''stick one's head above the crowd may mean it is cut off.'' In short, allowances may have to be made for cultural differences in which individual efforts are prized in those cultures where individualism is prized, while an individual's willingness and skill to influence groups may have to be identified and rewarded in more collectivistic cultures where team efforts are prized

Some European firms-and some firms in developing nations-will prize ''family heritage.'' Ultimately, coming from the European tradition of aristocracy, this principle means that ''not all people are created equal.'' Some people, as George Orwell once noted in Animal Farm, are ''more equal than others'' by virtue of birth family, socioeconomic status, schools attended, and social networks developed from school and family connections. In short, it means that one's family may mean that one is destined to be a senior executive no matter what corporate leaders in other nations may want because that is just the way things are done locally.

Trend 9: Growing Awareness of Similarities and Differences of Succession Programs in Special Venues: Government, Nonprofit, Education, and Small or Family Business

Just as one size of SP&M program may not fit all internationally, one approach to SP&M will not work in all venues. While there are many similarities in effective SP&M programs across business, government, and nonprofit sectors, there are some important differences as well. The same is true in settings such as educational institutions, small business, and family business. Government There is two key differences in succession planning programs between business and in governmental settings. One difference is that some governmental entities have civil service systems that prohibit (by law) the naming of individuals to fill positions without competitive job searches. In some jurisdictions, all jobs must be posted. Individuals are then ranked according to their qualifications compared to the requirements listed on job descriptions. That approach means, in practical terms that a government entity can commit to develop anyone who wishes to be developed a method sometimes called a talent-pool approach. But identifying individual successors in advance may not be possible. A second difference has to do with who may be regarded as the key customers of the effort. In business, the CEO plays the single most important role as customer. But in some governmental entities, the agency director is a political appointee who carries out the will of an elected official. In practical terms, that means that the most important owners of the SP&M process will be those government civil servants who do not change with the winds of every political election. They possess the collective institutional wisdom of the organization in their heads, and they must be appealed to on the grounds of a legacy if a government-agency SP&M program is to work. In many cases, government succession programs bear different titles and are called workforce planning or human capital management initiatives.


Nonprofit entities share characteristics with business and government. For that reason, an effective SP&M program in a nonprofit organization will most likely be a hybrid of what works in the private and public sectors. The senior-most leader must back the effort if it is to succeed, and the nonprofit SP&M program is like the private sector. But dedicated leaders who have made their careers in the organization, and are committed to its worthwhile mission, must also back the effort. And in that respect, the SP&M program in

a nonprofit organization is akin to that of a governmental entity.


Educational institutions vary widely in type, just as governmental entities do. One size SP&M program will not fit all. What works in a local school system may not work at a world-famous research university. But it is clear that large universities are unique for the simple reason that many people must move to other higher educational institutions if they are to be promoted from department head to dean, dean to provost or chancellor, or chancellor or provost to president. That makes it difficult for one institution to justify expenditures on identifying and grooming talent for the future, since the beneficiaries of such efforts would most likely be other institutions. Having said this, however, some higher-educational institutions have committed to leadership development programs to groom talent, and it is likely to be seen more in the future, for the simple reason that so many college professors and university administrators are at, or near, retirement age.

Small or Family Business

It should be noted that not all family businesses are small businesses and not all small businesses are family businesses. Some large, well-known companies like Ford were originally family businesses. In Europe or Asia, many large companies began-and some still are-essentially family dynasties. That is also true in some companies in the United States. And small businesses may be initiated by individuals without families or in partnerships of otherwise talented but unrelated entrepreneurs. Family businesses represent a special succession challenge for the simple reason that many factors come into play. A founding entrepreneur, who is usually a parent and spouse, establishes a business. Primogeniture is the view that the eldest son should be the primary inheritor. Based on the way that aristocratic titles have been passed down historically, it poses special problems in family succession, for the simple reason that the eldest son of a founding entrepreneur may (or may not) be the best equipped-by skills, vision, or motivation-to run the business. Family succession has several issues associated with it. One issue centers on management. A second issue centers on tax and inheritance issues. A third issue centers on legal issues. A fourth issue centers on what might be called family psychology.

Trend 10: Managing a Special Issue: CEO Succession

CEO succession has emerged as a special theme and research topic within the succession literature. In that respect it is like other unique succession issues, such as the impact of cultural differences in making succession decisions, small business succession, and family business succession. The special interest in CEO succession should come as no big surprise. It has been a prominent topic for research, discussion, and investor interest. In fact, it has been a focus of attention in much the same way that succession to the throne has preoccupied citizens in those nations where a monarch is the titular head of state. That analogy between monarch in a nation and CEO of a company is particularly apt when thinking about the successors of founding entrepreneurs in small businesses, where a CEO's unexpected and sudden loss can have particularly devastating effects on the business.

Trend 11: Review and Update Your Program - What worked well 5 years ago may need to be reevaluated and revised to address the realities of a smaller talent pool and a more complex business environment.

Trend 12: Leverage Multiple Data Sources - There is an art and a science to succession management. The best talent decisions are based on objective and subjective data from a variety of sources that don't conflict, including assessments, commentary and storytelling.    

Trend 13: Assessments are Standard - Rather than the exception, assessments are becoming the norm for all companies seeking the most effective process to drive market performance.          

Trend 14: More Advanced Workforce Planning - Organizations are recognizing that rigorous workforce planning analytics are increasingly important. Knowing your competitors, being more externally and future focused enhances agility and supports a proactive succession management process.    

Trend 15: Make Diversity a Reality - While companies may have diverse candidates in the succession pool they are not always chosen. Make it a priority to prepare diverse candidates for critical roles and promote them.

Trend 16: organizational restructures, mergers, acquisitions, etc occur more often - which compresses the feasible time frame for planning;

Trend 17: downsizing and cost-cutting approaches have sometimes had the effect of reducing the resources and options available to organizations, because many high-potential employees may be either victims of the cutbacks or else leave voluntarily because they have lost confidence in the employer;

Trend 18: the mantra that it has become harmful to one's career to remain employed by the same organization for a lengthy period has reduced the emphasis on a structured career with a single organization, as employees (particularly younger ones) change employers more often;

Trend 19: the ageing population is now having an impact as many 'baby boomers' are now in a position to choose early retirement. This trend may lead to labor supply shortages as fewer new employees are available to replace them;

Trend 20: technology is driving more frequent changes in job types and content, which makes it harder to plan; and

Trend 21: issues such as equal opportunity and managing diversity are having a greater impact, as organizations seek to maximize the contribution of all employees.

Trend 22: Technology can improve planning: To increase access to and use of succession planning, best practice organizations continue to use technology as a critical facilitator of the process. Web-based succession planning systems enable companies to run their process online and ensure continuous access to data. Employees can then take ownership of their own development plans through their own desktops. While subjectivity will always be part of candidate assessment, great progress has been made toward more objective assessments, including 360-degree feedback. As the use of raters expands, the array of raters will broaden to include administrative staff, support staff, internal and external customers. Best practice organizations will increase their efforts at training line managers and executives to perform more objective assessments when providing 360-degree feedback.

Trend 23: Family Owned Businesses & Succession Planning: The importance of succession planning is vital to the success and survival of family-owned businesses. Ideally, in a family-owned business, a CEO succession plan should contain details like who would run the business after the owner retires and how the ownership of the businesses would be transferred. Once a succession plan is developed, it must be reviewed annually and modified depending on the changing circumstances. However, the reality is quite different - succession is rarely planned in a formalized manner in family owned businesses.

 Best practices

Analysis: The first practice involves developing a solid understanding of the most significant challenges the company and its industry are likely to face over the next four to six years, and the skills and experiences the chief executive will need to lead the company past those hurdles. Directors must fight the tendency to think the answer is to find a younger version of the incumbent CEO.

Only in the rarest cases will future challenges require the same skills that worked in the past. For example, GE's past three CEOs (Reg Jones, Jack Welch and Jeff Immelt) are starkly different people. In leadership succession, GE has done a good job of looking "through the windshield" rather than "in the rear-view mirror" to understand the leadership skills required of the next CEO. Investing in a credible forecast about the future makes it possible to understand the skills and capabilities a CEO will need.

Development: The best practices in development are different for internal and external candidates. For internal candidates, development begins with the identification of a small number of people who could be made ready in two to four years. Though there is a strong bias for "ready now" candidates, directors must recognize that such individuals exist only in theory.

Selection: As the transition approaches, the internal candidates should be ready. The scanning for external candidates should be updated. The best selection practice involves inviting all internal candidates to give presentations to the board in which they describe their vision for the company's next five years. After a presentation and discussion, the likelihood is--if the development of internal talent has been successful--that a clear winner will be revealed. If none emerges, then it is time for the board to consider external candidates. The risk with external candidates is high--not only do they present an incomplete picture to directors, but the company is an incomplete picture to them.

Transition: A best-practices transition focuses on both the on-boarding process and first 12 months of a new CEO's tenure. Internal and external successors experience on-boarding differently, but a critical presumption is that before the successor's first day, the board has made certain that he or she has begun to develop relationships with board members, had sufficient time with the outgoing CEO to complete appropriate hand-offs and has a sense of the areas that represent burning fires requiring immediate action. On-boarding itself refers to the process of getting up to speed on the job.

Define job descriptions based on critical skills: Each year, it's important to take the time to review existing job descriptions to make sure they include the right skills and experience you need from new hires, as well as existing staff. Many times, due to changes in technology or industry demands, these skills can change over time. Because job descriptions are the basis for recruiting efforts, be sure that they reflect the most up-to-date skills you need to stay on top in your industry.

Assess current personnel skillsets: A part of conducting a succession planning action is to take a close look at your existing staff to identify future leadership potential. Look for those who are actively engaged in learning and skills enhancing activities. Talk with department managers to see who shows potential for taking on higher levels of responsibility. These folks are your team leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs who can bring new ideas and opportunities to your company.

Conduct frequent performance reviews: At minimum, your staff should expect to receive at least one performance review annually, with the optimized performance review frequently at quarterly intervals. During this time, assess the skills of staff, and how well they are progressing in their assigned roles. Look for employees who consistently reach their career objectives and get them assigned to higher level projects.

Encourage managers to coach employees: Supervising today is vastly different than in previous generations. This is especially true when supervising younger crowd of highly creative employees, who are driven by different types of incentives. Give managers the tools to better manage people by teaching them to lead by example, rather than simply keeping a watchful eye on staff. Managers should become coaches, not babysitters.

Provide corporate learning opportunities: The final element in a solid succession plan is to provide company-sponsored education and training for all employees. This can be as easy as setting up an online training system so that employee can take classes around their schedules. Or it can involve providing an in-house training program, conducted by management or outside consultants. Many companies also encourage higher education with tuition reimbursement programs

Develop an integrated approach to succession management: Organizations with an integrated, rather than "just-in-time," approach to succession management experience higher retention rates, increased employee morale, and an environment that stimulates innovation and organizational change. There are some positions in an organization that are more critical than others. A successful succession plan should place a high priority on planning for a smooth change in such positions. Key components of an integrated succession management approach include: workforce planning, succession planning, knowledge management practices, and recruitment and retention practices.

Continually assess potential employee turnover: Making career planning discussions a part of a regular and ongoing performance review process assists in assessing potential turnover. Department heads are a good resource in helping to identify employees that may be planning to leave.

Provide a formal, written succession plan as a framework for succession initiatives: Without a formal plan, workforce/succession planning tends to take place in a haphazard fashion. A formal plan identifies risks and strategies, thereby providing a guiding framework for specific succession initiatives, including how employees are eligible to participate and what being part of the succession plan means. Plans that have been thoughtfully articulated and communicated to the organization are more likely to be successful. Additionally, having a formal plan indicates organization and leadership commitment to succession management, which is critical for success and for sustaining successful planning across political and leadership transitions. The Budget Department and the Human Resources Department should work together to develop this plan, along with other departments as needed.

Develop written policies and procedures to facilitate knowledge transfer: Knowledge transfer is a critical component of succession management. There should be written procedures in place to formalize the knowledge transfer. A meeting should be held with departing staff to document job responsibilities.

Development of leadership skills should be a key component of any succession planning initiative: When leadership development occurs, the organization benefits from developing a leadership pool for other positions.

Encouragement of personal professional development activities should be a key part of the succession planning effort: Personal professional development benefits the organization over the long term by helping employees gains the skills they need to assume increased responsibilities.

Design of better recruitment and retention practices may aid in the succession process: Many organizations will focus more on recruiting the new employee and less on orienting the person to the position and the ongoing development of the employee. Making sure pay levels are competitive with the market place is one means of retaining employees. Providing career advancement opportunities for employees is another means of retention.

Consideration must be given to collective bargaining agreements and how those agreements fit in with the overall succession plan: The engagement of bargaining units for cross training opportunities is encouraged.

If early retirement programs are offered by your entity, it should be done in conjunction with a succession plan: Governments use considerable caution when considering the implementation of early retirement plans. If an early retirement program is offered, that might provide a window of opportunity to look at technology, potential to streamline, or rethinking the way services are provided, managed, and/or administered.

Consider non-traditional hiring strategies. Options such as part-time work, job-sharing, volunteers, and flexible schedules and flexible-place arrangements are providing mechanisms to both meet the needs of the organization and employees.

Deploy a Succession Management Process: There needs to be a process that the firm will follow. Different size firms require a different process. The key element is that firms need to make succession planning an integral process by linking succession planning and the firm's overall business strategy. This link is critical since it gives succession planning the opportunity to affect the firm' long-term goals and objectives. Furthermore, in case of an unexpected event, the firm should know how the next leader will be selected. Otherwise, the firm may be open to civil war or implosion.

Identify Future Leaders: The smart firms don't wait until its time to elect a new managing partner or other key player in the firm. They use a continuous identification process to focus on future leaders. They have developed for their firm a unique set of technical, professional, client and leadership competencies.

Develop Future Leaders: Best-practice firms create specific, individualized development plans for each employee. These plans identify which developmental activities are needed. In larger firms this is handled through the human resource group. The HR group will help develop or purchase training programs and will also monitor employee follow up in the developmental areas.

Measure Results: Best-practice firms realize that if it is not measured it is not important. These firms develop measures and targets for success. Targets are specific and may include the number of employees and partners that have completed a specific training program and can effectively utilize the knowledge from the program in their daily work schedule.

Keep it Simple: The best succession management process is simple and logical. Everyone has enough to do as it is without creating a bureaucratic and cumbersome practice.

Align Succession with the Firm's Overall Strategy: When you align succession with the firm's overall objectives, it makes it more real and present. Partners can visualize how and why succession is important. They are also more likely to support the process that ties into the firm's goals.

Support the Process: many firms that are in dire need of a succession plan, but the managing partner becomes the biggest restraining force. He simply does not support it. Unless you have the high level support and endorsement for the process, none of the above best practices will work. From a managing partner's perspective, the best practice is know when to step down.

Corporate values - Competencies are critical but CEO has noted that company's values are more critical. Reflecting upon the match between managerial competencies and corporate values, he has identified four types of managers, according to two dimensions. Type I managers perform well and reflect the company's values, while Type II managers reflect the company's values but do not perform as well. The company is highly interested in retaining both types of managers, seeking to improve performance of Type II managers. Type IV managers do not perform well or reflect the company's values - the company seeks to move them out when possible. The company has also made the decision to retrain or remove Type III managers, who perform well but do not reflect the culture. This decision sums up the requirement that its managers reflect the company's values and corporate culture.

High achievement - The company stresses the importance of "high achievers" - those who are successful wherever they go. The company's high achievers also seek improvement and self-development to move forward quickly.

Interest in advancement - Another key factor that the company looks for in its "high potentials" is the desire to perform leadership tasks. Its Leadership Review forms, filled out by the individual employees, seek to identify individuals' interests and match them to positions.

Past performance - Past performance is heavily weighted in the culture and in the performance review process.

Promotion record - Promotion record still has impact but counts for less than it previously did. The company's culture once expected movement at least every 18 months; now, it focuses more on people staying and seeing their individual projects through to the end.

Long-range plans: The talent management planning process begins with the setting of long-range, achievable goals. Jeff Oberlin, President of Jeff Oberlin, Inc. in Elmhurst, Illinois, is a business improvement executive who specializes in enterprise learning and workforce productivity. He emphasizes that from line employees all the way up to CEO, companies need to make sure that they have a long-range view of where they are going, what type of talent they will need, the competencies required in particular jobs and across the board, and also the number of employees needed with certain skill sets.

Progress checks: Once an organization devises a strategic plan that impacts the acquisition and development of talent, it should conduct annual progress checks with quarterly reviews. Such reviews assess changing strategies and explore emerging marketplace threats and opportunities, which could necessitate adjustments to the plan.

Connecting business strategies to needed competencies: Attention should be focused in the right direction in the talent management planning process. This means making the connections between business strategies and the competencies needed to implement them. Personnel in what would be called key, critical or pivotal positions in implementation projects can immensely influence the success or failure of strategic plans.

Developing a talent mindset: Leadership throughout the organization needs to have a talent mindset that drives them to actively participate in the acquisition and development of talent. Because company culture is the soul of an organization, top executives need to help create and sustain a purposeful, engaging, rewarding and high performance work life. This requires constant attention and should be part of the annual talent planning process.

Integrating all talent initiatives: All of the initiatives a company undertakes to attract, recruit, on-board, engage, direct, develop, reward and retain talent have to work consciously in concert. People who perform these functions should participate in the annual talent management planning process and the quarterly reviews, along with the business leaders they support.

A New Talent Management Model: The movement in Human Resources towards a broader, more systematic approach to attracting, acquiring, developing and retaining talent began in the early to mid 1990s and has accelerated throughout the current decade.

The talent management process coupled with improved technology greatly enhances business communication. It increases the information exchange between HR personnel and top business executives, allowing them to create and implement strategic plans. Its ultimate outcome will be an integrated approach that leaves nothing to chance. It will assure that the right people are in the right jobs when and where the business needs them.

Side Bar: Choosing Talent Management Software: In the new integrated approach to talent management, senior business leaders will work with senior HR leaders to set strategic goals and realize them. Here are five factors to keep in mind when choosing talent management software.

Consider a comprehensive suite of modules: Although a number of modules are available which can stand alone or be integrated, the three essential modules that need to be linked together in a talent management system are: Learning Management, Performance Management and Talent Planning.

Address integration issues: One software provider can supply a single interface and eliminate problems resulting from vendor interdependence within a suite of modules.

Such true integration results in shared data across all modules, consistent security, a master profile of each employee, shared competencies, a unified user interface, shared workflow and embedded analysis.

Implement configurable process management: Choose applications with the flexibility to match the organization's business processes, rather than having to adjust HR processes to fit the software. Ideally, it should be possible to leverage multiple configuration options to meet geographic and/or organizational needs.

Consider global needs: The capability of a system to operate in multiple languages permits integration on a global scale.

Ensure secure and scaleable architecture: Software tools hosted in a protected environment on the Internet relieve companies of the burden of managing their own.


This article provides evidence that while there are plenty of bright spots in the practice of succession management within organizations, such as the growing trend toward increasing senior leader ownership of the process, succession management practitioners identify significant areas of opportunity. Clear opportunity exists to hard-wire succession efforts to business strategy, to improve the assessment and evaluation processes, and to strengthen accountability for delivering on commitments made during the talent review/succession management processes. Identifying metrics to monitor effectiveness of succession management that satisfy key stakeholder groups is another opportunity that needs to be addressed in order for processes to be more effective and to prove their business value. Finally, leadership development is perhaps the greatest area of opportunity as there are not only gaps in execution, but also a lack of shared understanding of how development can be integrated with an effectively functioning succession management system.