As our team started to build out our new Standard Storyboard content, Succession Planning was slated for our second wave this quarter. And then came a couple of well-timed nudges from a customer and a prospective customer, so we proceeded to do what we do*: developing the user stories, then mocking up the storyboards, creating the sample data, and then building out the storyboards in the One Model platform. This entire process required just a few hours (excluding the time to create mock data). The One Model platform is quite flexible for deploying new content.
*As reference, a basic overview of this design/build process is explained further in a short presentation delivered at the People Analytics Future of Work (PAFOW) Europe online conference. It can be viewed here: Design Thinking in People Analytics Storyboards, and you can download a template that supports this development approach here.
A few key elements of measuring Succession Planning are:
- Completeness: "Do we have all the successor boxes filled?"
- Readiness: "Are we set up to sustain unexpected departures or moves?"
- Successor Pool Diversity: "Will execution of succession plans increase diversity?"
And the metrics we believe to be most important for Succession Planning are:
- Bench Strength (gross and also net, which removes double-counting)
- Number of Leaders without a Successor
- % of Leaders without a Ready-Now Successor
- Successor Pool Diversity (gender and ethnic)
Other considerations for understanding the successor pool (vis-a-vis the successor) can include the geography, business function, whether the successor has global job experience or other leadership training, etc. These are all measurable, but require you to understand the leadership philosophy of the organization in order to prioritize which elements to dig into.
So, here is the video we recorded which explains the basic Succession Planning process and then shows the storyboard we developed. Keep reading after the video to learn about pool-based succession planning.
Moving to Pool-Based Succession Thinking
Reflecting on Succession Planning a bit further, I'd like to present a challenge and even use our own example in the video to make the point. In larger organizations, I see a huge opportunity to increase the value and impact of Succession Planning by switching to a pool-based model.
Here's the issue. If we look at a group of 100 leaders in a large organization, each of them having 3 identified successors, we will have a 'gross' number of 300 successors. If we assume some overlapping successors, which is to be expected and not necessarily a bad thing, we will see that number being lower. Let's say something like 200 successors.
Now we have 100 leaders with 200 successors. In theory, we are planning to disproportionately invest in this pool of talent to help them be ready to 'succeed' into one of the leader positions. This includes talent management teams and HR business partners identifying their specific development needs and creating plans for them to receive the training, experiences, and coaching that will increase their readiness. We should see those successors that were 'Ready in <1 Year' being 'Ready Now' a year later, right?
So, how long will these folks remain on the successor bench? The 100 leaders will probably have low attrition, but some internal movements, so let's say it totals 10% to make the math easy. That's 10 leader vacancies in a given year. And we have a pool of 200 successors, with whom we have been investing a LOT of resources, getting ready to move into just 10 open positions.
I bet you can see the problem. We have effectively created a process that can be viewed as having a 20-year supply of talent. Often times, the successor pool is just too big for the types of investments needed and devolves into a list with no specific actions. The Succession Planning becomes an exercise in continuity planning disconnected from focused talent investments.
So, are we investing our resources across too many successors? I would say, yes. I would say that moving to a pool-based approach would be advisable.
Imagine you have 5 Sales leaders in your organization in a given region. Should there be 15 successors being groomed for five positions? I would say not. Perhaps that number should be 5, or maybe 7? This focuses the investment on a smaller successor pool, giving you the ability to do more with them to ensure they are even more prepared for the next role.
Yes, you will need to stretch people more to do this in a pool approach, but it will be for the betterment of the organization. Your Sales leaders' successors may be from very different product lines, your Finance leaders may have a variety of specialties within their successor pool. This may be a bit uncomfortable, but it can be a really good thing. It can be a really powerful driver of innovation.
The main objective is to reduce the number of successors to enable talent investments that are smaller overall, but more significant and impactful at the individual level.
But what about the metrics? Yes, of course, in a pool-based approach, the metrics would be a bit different. Very doable, but a topic for a different day.
I'm really interested in your thoughts on all of the above, so please feel free to reach out to share.
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