Succession planning is a vital aspect of any sustainable business venture. To have a steady and reliable pipeline of talented professionals ready to step into vital roles is a necessity for firms across the spectrum. And although in the most ideal of situations one would hope for such a pipeline to be present, the reality is far removed such a vision.
In 2014 study, a Stanford research report found out that many businesses struggled to create a definite plan due to the lack of available talent within their organization and found effective succession planning a major challenge. Only about half these organizations had a specific executive in mind who was being trained for a higher position with over 39 percent of companies said that there were no employees who currently had the skills necessary to take on these roles. In more recent times, a Gartner report from 2019 found that only 27 percent of business units in their survey had the leaders they required for the future. A future that is going to be markedly more uncertain than the present that we live in.
This poses a big challenge for HR professionals in the coming decade. This, in part, also helps define a major force that will shape the future of HR at that time. Finding the right leaders and doing so in a way that mitigates the negative impact of not having the right people in charge, will be a major consideration of the HR function at large.
Importance of people development
Succession planning, although a major challenge in front of HR professionals is not a problem with an immediate fix. Unlike simply recruiting or training to meet skill demands—sets of activities that pose their challenges—succession planning requires careful attention and relationship building that identifies the right leadership potential. But finding the people with the right mix of hard and soft skills—those that make for an essential leadership definition for the 21st century—is often rare to find. It is to be built and honed.
This is a primary reason why with market uncertainty on skill relevancy changing rapidly, the future of HR is increasingly talent-centric when it comes to addressing their firms' leadership needs. For this HR professionals don’t only have to have the right technology in place to identify and build the right leaders but also genuinely invest in developing their high performers.
HR professionals will face a need to be strong advocates of people's development if they have to build the right succession planning that’s prepared to help firms weather an uncertain business ecosystem. They are required to build a strong, tech backed process of talent identification and make sure proper training, including coaching and mentoring, is provided to those talented people to boost their careers within the company. By providing their employees with the right development framework, HR professionals help build a good selection of potential successors for important leadership positions, while providing visible proof to employees of their career opportunities.
Agile succession processes and diversify the bench
Identification of the right talent remains a major challenge for HR professionals. This is partly down to two broad reasons. The first being an ineffective and narrow process of identifying future leaders. This stems from both organizational neglects to often having a biased or skewed approach to talent development. The second more relevant aspect is that it's difficult to accurately predict the kind of leadership roles that HR professionals have to prepare their employees for. Most HR leaders approach succession planning by managing a pipeline of successors who have the potential to fill a specific position or type of role. The Gartner report elucidates that almost two-thirds of HR leaders expect a significant portion of leadership roles to change within the next five years, and one-third of those leaders can’t predict how the roles will change. This makes it difficult to plan for the future.
To create flexibility for future leadership needs, it is important to create an agile and lean succession process that can better adapt to changing leadership skills and roles. In addition to this, HR professionals will have to employ both their intuition and technology in far greater means to predict how changes in the business ecosystem are impacting leadership structures. A good way of doing so, and introducing a much-needed diversity into the leadership bench of most organizations, is by mitigating selection bias across leadership pipelines and make succession planning tuned to business needs.
If your business is planning to train internal talent to take over higher roles, then part of your succession management plan must include strategies to make this happen. Studies show that the majority of organizations are failing in this department as well. Although 89 percent of business executives agree that a top priority of theirs is to improve internal leadership and skills, by one account 56 percent of HR leaders say they aren’t doing enough to increase employee training opportunities.
To make succession planning more impactful in the coming years will be a major challenge for HR professionals in the coming years. One that is sure to shape the future direction of the function and its ability to galvanize both resources and attention to address the issue.