Succession planning is a strategic people objective in many organizations. It is the cornerstone of having the right people in the right jobs for the organization to meet its short and long-term goals.

Many organizations struggle with acquiring the right business, technical and leadership skills to drive performance and cultural results. The right complement of people is more difficult than buying a piece of equipment or software, yet senior leadership spends less time and investment dollars on this aspect of the business than making a capital decision.

Here’s the thing about succession planning. It does not have to be difficult or complicated. The power of the succession plan is in the discussion and execution of decisions made to develop or retain specific people in the organization. It does not require you to take action on every person in the organization. Scope is completely optional and is dependent on the risks associated with having the right people to meet business objectives.

Successful succession planning tasks senior leadership to be honest about employee potential – to have candid conversations, assess people accurately, work with each other across functional lines and commit to a solid platform or process for development.

Bottom line – it takes planning, focus, investment and execution – after all, it is a “human” capital project.

Organizations can establish metrics for succession planning. Once employees have been identified, the organization can determine:

  • Percentage or number of employees who are high potentials
  • Percentage or number employees who are key employees to retain
  • Goals for movement – promotion or development
  • Investment monies for development

The organization can measure the success of their planning and development process. Consider these areas:

  • Specific development plans were written down and communicated
  • Development plans were executed for each person
  • Specific development activities and the ROI in a particular development area
  • Planned moves or promotions made within the organization
  • Unplanned moves or promotions made within the organization
  • Turnover – how many left for a better opportunity
  • Employee removed from the succession planning candidate pool

Ideally, succession-planning metrics are established at the beginning of the year and evaluated at year-end. This approach provides opportunities to assess what metrics and outcomes require refinement and key topics for senior leadership team discussions.