In search of opportunities to grow and to avoid putting all their eggs in one basket, professionals today are switching jobs or companies more frequently than the generation before them.
As such, companies have less time for organisational leadership preparation and few incentives to develop staff. However, most would admit that succession planning is even more crucial in uncertain times.
If taken seriously and done systematically, building a pipeline of successors is possible. Here are some steps to get you started:
1. Define Future Success to Formulate a C-suite Success Profile
In order to accurately identify the right talent to enable your company to be future-ready at all times, you need to first define future success. What does business success in the next 5 to 10 years look like? What will it take to achieve this? This will help you objectively identify the traits and qualities that leaders need to have today in order to deliver this success. These, along with a list of hard skills, can constitute your very own C-suite success profile.
2. Be Willing to Outpace Accelerated Workforce Turnover
You might have identified leaders within your organisation but perhaps you think they need 1 or 2 more years of development. However, in a VUCA business environment where fewer people are staying in a single company for a prolonged period, you might need to let them take on leadership positions sooner than expected. You must be willing to outpace accelerated workforce turnover.
In order to do this intelligently, you need to distinguish those who are not quite ready from those who will probably never be ready because they lack fundamental qualities.
The key is to distinguish between a skills gap that can be closed and character flaws that might be more challenging to correct.
Those who are “not quite ready” are the ones you should focus on. Among these, there will be some whose capabilities and development trajectory are more promising than others’. You should be willing to accelerate their rise in spite of the fact that by traditional standards, they would be classified as “not quite ready.”
3. Targeted and Rigorous Leadership Development
Once you’ve identified the individuals with potential, communicate your plans to them. This will help them stay interested in developing their career with you. Support them with targeted and rigorous leadership development programmes and mentorship. You must give them a reason to stay and grow with you.
4. Evaluate Rigorously
Feel free to use multiple evaluation techniques and predictive assessments to determine candidates’ suitability. Data from personality profiles, critical reasoning tests, simulations and interviews should be weighed against your C-suite success profile. While all of this won’t absolutely guarantee success, it could certainly increase confidence in the outcomes.
5. Commit to Trial-runs in “Normal” Times
Don’t wait till there’s a dire need to fill a leadership position to test potential leaders. Try them out continually by having them take over certain responsibilities when leaders are on a vacation. You can also have them take over responsibilities on a regular rotational basis. This will allow them to gain experience and help you determine if they need additional training.
6. Integrate Succession Considerations into your Hiring Strategy
Once you have crystallised your C-suite success profile, you can recruit talent with its key elements in mind. You can also better identify leadership talent gaps that need to be closed and recruit new talent with these as a pre-requisite.
7. Be Willing to Let Go More Quickly
Considering the accelerated pace of workforce turnover, just as you need to be willing to move people into leadership ranks more quickly than before, you must be ready to take action more quickly if the individual is not rising to the challenge upon taking over. Address the problems incisively or be willing to replace them. VUCA realities have truncated the timeline for success.
Swift action also allows others in the leadership pipeline to rise and prove their worth. It keeps them interested in staying and growing with you.