7 Steps to Effective Leadership Succession & Talent Management

These 7 steps, rooted in basic HR principles, will lead to lasting leadership succession that improves business results and enhances business continuity.

Most organizations believe in the practice of leadership succession planning because they recognize the critical nature of business continuity. However, many need a standardized and effective process for executing it properly and sustainably. “Go slow to go fast” is a phrase often used at WorkDove. It is imperative not to skip any of the 7 steps because somewhere down the line business continuity and results will be compromised. Taking the time to build your leadership succession planning process correctly the first time (with tweaks along the way) will save you time, disruption, expenses, and heartache in the future. Incorporating the following 7 steps, rooted in fundamental HR principles, will lead to a lasting leadership succession planning process that will improve business results and enhance business continuity.

What Are the Steps to Leadership Succession?

Leadership succession planning must be built with an understanding of the ultimate end goal: a high-performing culture. Talented, driven, high value-fit and performing team members power business results. Thus, every performance and talent management decision your organization makes should answer the question, “Will this lead us to becoming a healthier, high-performing culture?” However, it is difficult to track your progression toward this goal unless you are tracking the major components of this type of culture – performance metrics and observable, workplace behaviors/core values. For a more in-depth look at how to track these components effectively, check out this performance matrix blog post.

Step 1. Revisit Your Why, What, and How

The most commonly missed step, yet arguably the most important, is evaluating and reevaluating your mission, vision, core values, and organizational goals. Organizational structure and how it grows and sustains change is highly dependent on the leadership’s DNA being imprinted at every level. Therefore, it is critical to ensure alignment is reached in vision casting, identifying the core values and competencies that you care deeply about, and determining if company-wide goals support the intended culture. Once these pieces are well-defined, revisit them every year to ensure that alignment is maintained.

Step 2: Codify and Adopt

Now that you have reached alignment on the cornerstones of the organization, it’s time to codify these through the standardization of performance reviews, leadership competencies, and distinct career paths. This will likely result in templates and workflows for specific roles or departments. What this boils down to is crystal clear definitions and standardization of performance objectives, competencies, core value behavior displays, and career paths that show pathways to both people leadership AND to individual contributor roles (don’t miss dual career tracks!). Clear definitions increase accountability and eliminate confusion on expectations for all employees. 

Step 3: Operationalize and Train 

After building out the necessary templates and processes, training must occur at all levels. Providing consistent coaching, feedback, and tools for your leaders will not only engage them further but also will teach them how to provide the same coaching to their direct reports, and their direct reports, and so on throughout the organization. Accomplishing steps 1 and 2 provide the foundation from which coaching and development can occur!

Step 4: Verify and Calibrate 

Speaking of leadership at all levels, a verification and calibration process must happen when comparing the performance assessment between managers. Manager A may have a tendency to give a 5-star rating to all employees but Manager B may be more cynical and refuse to give a 5-star rating, even if it’s accurate. Because of the variation of leadership styles and personalities, it is important to compare and contrast performance tracking between multiple leaders, as well as investigate past vs. current performance of individuals to notice any observable trends or patterns. The employee is absolutely keeping track of how their performance scores have increased or decreased, so you should, too!

Step 5: Inquire and Examine 

Have you asked the employee what THEY want for their career path? While this may sound overly simplistic, we hear often that this is a skipped step. Whether this is a documented conversation or trackable in your leadership succession planning software, make a point to discuss the individual’s personal vision and career desires before evaluating them for potential leadership. Consider also gathering peer and multi-rater feedback about that individual to glean a true picture of how others may perceive them as a future leader. 

Step 6: Place, Plan, and Develop

Most organizations believe this step is the only step in leadership succession planning, but this is not the HR best practice. Only once all of the previous 5 steps have been incorporated, may you now identify potential leaders and begin crafting a development plan for their growth. This development plan should include simplistic target development areas that are consistently discussed between manager and employee. Also, it should include tangible tasks associated and task completion goals to keep the individual engaged and accountable.

Step 7: Promote and Inspect 

Promotion without inspection is pointless. Once the individual has been promoted to their leadership role, the development cannot stop there. When you don’t continue to develop that employee, it threatens the efficacy of your succession planning process. Thus, it is crucial to provide the tools and support for that new leader to be as successful as possible. This includes frequent check-in conversations, continued coaching and training, and inspection of their performance.

The WorkDove Approach to Leadership Succession Planning

We understand that 7 steps can feel overwhelming and each of these steps requires a lot of time and effort that may not be realistic right now. However, when it comes to leadership succession planning, our best recommendation is to just start somewhere. If all you can accomplish in the next few months is a revisiting of your mission, vision, and core values, then that is an amazing first step! 

WorkDove’s 9-box tool reduces overwhelm by streamlining the leadership succession planning process through easy-to-use software. The 9-box tool enables leaders to spend less time on data collection and aggregation and more time on productive conversations that help identify their organization’s next generation of leadership. Partnering with a user-friendly leadership succession planning platform makes all 7 of the above steps seamless and allows critical information to be stored in one single source of truth. Find out more about WorkDove’s 9-box tool today!

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