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Roffey Park - column by Gary Miles

5 tips for your succession planning strategy

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Following the results of Singapore’s GE 2015 and the victory by PAP, the subject of leadership renewal dominates the minds of politicians in Singapore.

This is also a timely reminder of the inevitable people shifts taking place across organisations, whether planned or unexpected, says Gary Miles, Roffey Park’s director of international operations.

Whilst most organisations would claim succession planning is a priority, many simply don’t have the strategies in place to prove that’s really the case.

This is highlighted by a recent report by XpertHR which found that 40% of respondents acknowledged there was no formal succession plan in place and of those that did have a plan, 58% reported that staff replacements are done when needs occur.

At a time when our research found that almost 70% of organisations fail to recruit replacements for roles because of a lack of candidates with suitable skills and experience, and with recruitment difficulties across organisations – not being prepared can stall growth plans with damaging consequences.

There’s no set approach to get succession planning right, but there are some basic principles that will go a long way to filling empty positions.

Dive deep to identify your talent pipeline

Organisations need to look across the whole organisation and not just focus on senior staff, but also look at more junior staff who have the potential to reach the top.

Using approaches such as development centres, which are tailored to focus on your key competences will help to not only single out successors, but identify those key positions crucial to business success.

Engage the top

As key decision makers for senior appointments, senior directors must align themselves with the objectives of succession planning which will mean there is a greater likelihood of making successful, strategic and visionary appointments.

Organisations need to look across the whole organisation and not just focus on senior staff, but also look at more junior staff who have the potential to reach the top.

Demonstrable involvement from senior managers sends a clear message to the organisation that will ensure the buy-in of everyone involved in your succession planning.

Focus on developing experiences

It’s all very well to have plans, timelines and objectives, but these alone will not develop your  high potentials to become future leaders.

What will make the difference are development opportunities that support and challenge your talent pipeline, offer key individuals opportunities for growth and  at the same time, make sure they fit the competencies you have identified.

Don’t wait for a burning platform

Our Singapore Management Agenda research found that lack of career growth and development opportunities was the top reason for 52% of people leaving their organisation.

For many it might well seem there are better opportunities to be had elsewhere, but candidates may well  queue up to join your organisation for the right price.

Therefore taking a strategic approach to succession planning will help retain your staff and they will be higher engaged and more likely to stay.

Avoid cloning

Singapore has a rich, diverse workforce and we know that diversity is critical to organisational success.

It’s all very well to have plans, timelines and objectives, but these alone will not develop your  high potentials to become future leaders.

Our research found that Singaporean organisations are not exploiting the full potential of workforce diversity.

While successors should be appointed on merit alone, it is worth remembering to offer opportunities to your whole organisational population rather than just to the select few.

Case study: Putting succession planning into practice

Under the leadership of their HR director, an international oil and gas organisation, identified at an early stage that the vast majority of its senior managers had been with the company for many years.

While this loyalty spoke volumes about the company’s success, it also highlighted that in ten years’ time there would be a shortage of managerial talent.

The organisation implemented a programme of development centres where selected managers focused on work-specific activities aimed at addressing the competencies identified as crucial to long-term success.

What was different about their approach was that they did not just focus on those with senior leadership potential, but they identified positions key to business success, then singled out successors to fill those roles.

Board members played an active role in the development centres and were members of a high level talent panel focusing on the organisation’s strategic approach to talent development and succession planning.

They did not just focus on those with senior leadership potential, but they identified positions key to business success, then singled out successors for those roles.

The results were significant. From the initial intake of participants, 60% were promoted and others have been assigned special projects as a result of their involvement with the programme.

Sudden shifts at the top of government – inevitably result in further movement of people and their roles.

Contingency plans and scenario thinking may have been in place and some organisations may well be prepared for these shifts.

But creating and implementing a smart succession plan will ensure your organisation is not caught unawares and has the resilience to transition effectively into the next stage of its organisational life.

Image: Shutterstock

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