Total Rewards Asia Summit 2024 Singapore
How effective succession planning can help to retain the right employees and recruit the right candidates

How effective succession planning can help to retain the right employees and recruit the right candidates


In an era where employers describe the employee turnover and churn as "unrelenting", Amanda Lappi, HR Manager, Health Payment Systems, Inc. believes we need to take succession planning more seriously. 

According to the Harvard Business Review, organisations are seeing anywhere from 30–100% employee turnover since March 2020. Employers have described the churn as "unrelenting" and are realising the importance of retention as well as recruitment.

So, what are some key components of an effective retention plan in light of the 'Great Resignation'? Experts suggest the most important efforts include investing in and rewarding loyal employees (with more than money) and providing opportunities to grow.

Digging deep into retention interviews and engagement data is the first step in order to identify the reasons behind staying or going.

Once you learn what employees want and need, find a way to develop them into the roles they desire. Opportunity comes in many forms, but recognising good top performers, developing talent, and promoting from within are significant influencers in retaining the right people. Show current employees that they are valued even more than new hires by providing them with new opportunities to grow and advance, as they are highly willing to retrain and learn new skills. And everyone knows that it is significantly less expensive to retain and develop a current employee than it is to hire, onboard and train a new employee.

This is where proper succession planning plays a key role.

Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing employees within the organisation who have the potential to fill key leadership positions. Sapling HR tells us that progressive organisations invest in the professional growth of employees through succession planning to "engage and retain the talent they’ve worked so hard to recruit". When your employees can envision a great future at your organisation, they are more likely to put the effort into excelling in their current roles. They’re also more likely to stay in order to see achievement of their desired career goals.

Succession planning is just as important for the future of the company as it is for employee engagement and retention. It’s a way for an employer to provide leaders with crucial information on how to ensure continued viability and resilience for the enterprise. By identifying the critical positions within your organisation and developing action plans for individuals to assume those positions, you secure the future health of the organisation as well as stimulate employees' desire to stay put.

Taking a holistic view of current and future goals, the process ensures that you have the right people in the right jobs today and in the years to come. An effective succession plan must closely tie to the business strategy and goals, so begin by assessing your organisation's biggest business challenges now and in the near future. How does the current structure of your workforce support the immediate and future plans for growth? Do you have critical positions that are imperative in supporting business continuity? What are the critical success factors for those roles – competencies, skills and institutional knowledge – now and in the future? Get leadership involved in the process early in order to inform leaders with crucial information on how to ensure continued viability and resilience for the enterprise.

Next, identify and review critical positions at the director level and above to determine which positions are key to supporting business continuity.

Consider including individual contributor positions that require a particularly unique skillset or are traditionally difficult to recruit for, as well as positions which have a high turnover rate. These are the positions around which your succession plan will be built and for whom a defined development path will need to be designed for successors. Evaluate the impact each position has in achieving company strategic goals and objectives, as well as the vacancy risk. The high priority positions will be revealed through this process and enable you to determine the competencies, skills and knowledge that are critical success factors. Once you have that determined, you can shift your focus to evaluating employees who can begin the development path to fulfill those roles.

Now you can begin to consider your high potential employees, and those you want to retain the most. Consider if there are current staff members ready to successfully assume the roles identified or if they have the potential to grow into the role over time. Determine which staff members are currently eligible or may be eligible in the future. You’ll likely identify high potential employees who may not currently fit into a role but are considered a strong individual contributor – remember that they should not be denied access to professional development activities in order to keep them stimulated and engaged. Happy, engaged, positively motivated, and appreciated employees don’t leave.

By identifying this list of employees, you’re creating a pipeline of future leaders and telling them they are valued, appreciated, and recognised for their contribution. Work with these employees to understand their current skill set and their desired growth path to determine how they may be successful in positions and in meeting identified business challenges. Now that you’ve developed a pool of talent to step into the critical positions through targeted career development strategies, you’re ready to prepare them for that development path.

Preparing an individual to progress in the organisation is not a canned, standardised process. It often takes a combination of formal training, thoughtful coaching, trusted mentorship, and key assignments. Managers and executive leadership play a key role in creating access and removing barriers to key assignments and providing thoughtful, honest feedback along the way. Managers should be having ongoing career development conversations with all employees in addition to their annual performance reviews. Career development conversations with high potential employees should be focused on closing knowledge gaps, strengthening existing skills, and deepening necessary competencies.

Succession planning helps to clearly define the development needs and opportunities for key talent across the organisation. Employee development helps you create a stronger workforce that will perform their current roles better, increase their loyalty and dedication, and stimulate a deeper engagement with company goals and strategies. Expanding these opportunities helps employees develop the skills and experience they need to move into your critical roles and they will appreciate you investing in their futures. The result is a strong bench and boost in much needed retention.

Image / Provided (featuring the author, Amanda Lappi)

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