Are You Doing Succession Management or Replacement Planning?

A robust succession management process is key to any business. So how can you strengthen your talent pipeline with an effective succession management plan?

Are You Doing Succession Management or Replacement Planning?

1 Dec 2015 by  Dr. John Chan

Do you worry about managing succession?

Are you concerned about your talent pipeline?

Succession management is one of the hottest topics for employers today. It’s no longer news that the workforce is “graying”, and that the job seekers in the market lack the skills and experience you need. From family businesses to global organisations, succession management is no longer just a nice to have. Succession management will be a key differentiator for organisations that are struggling to survive and those that are market leaders.

Many HR and senior leaders will say that they do manage succession in their organisations. Upon deeper investigation, what they actually mean is that they have someone in mind to replace one or more key positions. While this is important to manage your risks, this is not succession management. These leaders are actually conducting replacement planning.

Replacement planning is often confused with succession management. A major assumption of replacement planning is that the responsibilities of the position will stay the same and that the new person will perform the role in the same way as their predecessor. By looking at the role in isolation, replacement planning doesn’t consider how the role fits within the larger organisation and its future needs. Replacement planning looks to replicate the skills of the incumbent, instead of finding the best person to realise the future potential of the role. This may require totally new skills and attributes.

Being restricted to planning for only existing positions is another flaw in replacement planning. There is no flexibility to plan for new roles or changing responsibilities. As organisations and responsibilities change, replacement plans can quickly become obsolete. Replacement plans encourage promotion within ‘silos’ of specialisation, rather than encouraging managers to think across the wider organisation. Replacement planning serves a good purpose for many organisations and for specific positions, but it is highly tactical and short-term in its nature.

By contrast, succession management is a long term strategy that ensures the continued growth of the talent pipeline in an organisation. Instead of being a once a year event, a succession management process is embedded through several areas like selection, development and rewards.

When a vacancy occurs, instead of having a few people to ‘backup’ the role, a robust succession management process must ensure that there is a talent pool of qualified internal candidates who are not only capable to be successful, but have the potential to transform the role.

A robust succession management process takes time, energy, and buy-in of the whole organisation in order to realise its potential. Senior leadership must drive succession management. This must be supported by long-term strategy that is closely aligned with business goals.

Without the full commitment of the organisation, HR alone won’t be able to sustain an effective succession management process within an organisation.

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Dr. John Chan

John has over 15 years’ of experience in talent management supporting a wide range of human capital initiatives for local and MNC organisations. He is based in Sydney and is a frequent speaker on HR topics.

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