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Succession Planning as a Retention and Performance Management Tool

Source | | Anna Taylor

Succession plans don’t just protect a business from disruption. They also let employees know that it’s worth staying with an organisation to have a shot at the top spots.

The next generation of talent wants employers to take them through possible scenarios of how their career will develop. They expect a roadmap of where they will go – and how they will get there. These plans can be a powerful motivator for employees to deliver consistently strong performance. But despite their value, succession plans can be overlooked even in the largest companies.

A surprising number of large corporate organisations have been rocked by the sudden departure of well-regarded senior leaders who have been lured elsewhere – more often than not because they have not had their next progression options made clear to them, leaving them  feeling under-valued or unchallenged. Even worse, if that role was also lacking a defined succession pipeline, the gap left behind can cause significant disruption while the company scrambles to backfill the role. Not to mention the potential loss of intellectual property and subtle nuances that can’t be passed on in written form.

Patricia Waldron-Werner, former Executive VP, Global Human Resources and Corporate Social Responsibility at Orange Business Services, Orange Group, says large companies in France, where she is based, tend to have “very good talent management programmes overall”. However, when it comes to mid-sized and smaller companies, she notes that talent management isn’t as evolved and consequently, many enterprises are unlikely to have succession plans in place.

Susan Wrase-Derkach, Organisation Consultant and Coach, and former Head of Global Learning at Adidas, says that while succession plans typically exist, they are often not followed through. “We had people on a formal succession plan,” she notes, “But when the time came, there were sometimes factors that meant these plans did not move ahead as intended”. Either the business may have felt the person was not quite ready, the organisational structure may have changed, or for personal or professional reasons, the candidate couldn’t move into the role. Therefore, a key element of a good succession plan is that they not only incentivise workers but also offer flexibility to allow for a more agile environment.

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