Vivek Mehrotra
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Succession Planning (Part IV)

Succession Planning is required both for the short term as well as for the long term. For short term succession planning, the organization must be ready with details such as:

  • Who needs immediate replacements?
  • Whose professional career demands relocation?
  • Who would like to choose other volunteer options?

Whereas, for the long term succession planning the details required are,

  • Who is completing his term this year?
  • Who have the skills to replace this position?
  • Who has necessary skills and is ready for a larger or a different role?

Succession planning is not about finalizing the CEO only; it is to facilitate the organization to be ready with the answers to all the above-mentioned questions. In order to provide the benefits of succession planning all across the organization, here is the bottom up approach to succession planning.

To begin with the organization must identify key positions for each department. The next step is to decide upon current and future competencies required for their smooth functioning. One needs to even visualize the expected vacancies. After preparing these details, HR department with the help of line managers needs to initiate the process of assessment and evaluation to identify Hi-Pos (Employees with high potential) in each of the departments. Once the list of Hi-Pos is ready based upon the results of their assessment/evaluation, HR department in concurrence with line managers should do the profiling for each individual to ensure selection of the right person for the right position. Now that the list of potential successors for each department is ready there is a need for assessing the individual's competency and skill set required for the position for which he/she is listed. Accordingly, individual development plans need to be prepared. To bridge the competency and skill gaps organizations must plan for appropriate training. Apart from training, job rotation and simulation workshops can provide valuable insights to the successor about his/her future role. The entire process may take a few years and a good amount of money to groom an individual to reach at this stage - but it is worth the investment. It will ensure the regular supply of leaders at different levels, ready to take charge.

Like any other activity, follow-up is a must to ensure the success of the entire plan discussed above. Just handing over the baton to the successor does not complete the job; organization must assist with leadership transition and development. In order to fulfill its responsibilities, organization must develop and implement coaching and mentoring programs periodically. Also a plan for on going evaluation must be in place. This will help in monitoring the progress of succession candidates. This model is successfully implemented by Wipro India's leading IT company. It is called Talent Review and Planning and is headed by none other than Mr. Azim Premji, the Chairman himself.

Now the question which arises while identifying Hi-Pos is: should the organization look at the current performance or assess the future potential. Well, both are important and one can not substitute the other. Current performance is not the sole predictor of future success; future potential is a sign of prospective results Hi-Pos can deliver. Since, performance is an assessment of Hi-Po's past business and the performance review results; it identifies mainly the areas of low performance/weakness. This builds a poor image of the employee and the organization in turn gets minimal level of performance from Hi-Pos leading to wasted resources, low morale, unsatisfactory performance, and higher degrees of employee turnover. As against it, potential is an assessment of Hi-Po's willingness to perform and learn from successes & failures, his/her open-mindedness, and sense of personal accountability. According to Charan, Drotter & Noel, authors of 'The Leadership Pipeline: 'Future work potential is based on accumulated skills and experience as evidenced by past achievement, ability to learn new skills and willingness to tackle bigger, more complex or higher quality assignments'. While deciding the performance and the potential mix the organization should keep in mind the industry, job profile, tenure, and learning curve of the employee. Organization must be ready with various permutation and combinations of performance and potential depending upon the above-mentioned factors...

(Excerpts from the talk delivered on Succession Planning at Malaysian HR Congress, Kuala Lampur)

Vivek Mehrotra

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