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September 2020 Newsletter
In This Issue
  • Thanks for Joining Us!
  • Considerations and Questions for Strategic Planning
  • Taking The Mystery Out of Succession Planning
  • The Future is Now: Succession Planning 101
  • Quick Reference:Is Your Leadership Approach to Succession Planning Updated?
  • Quick Reference: Let’s Talk About It
  • Quick Reference: Talent Development Priorities
  • Coach’s Corner: Not Everyone Wants a Leadership Position
September 2020
Volume 7, Number 9

Thanks for Joining Us!

How can it be September? Some of us can't wait for this year to be over and like any other year, year-end will come quickly. In the meantime, life does go on and so does your business.

We have been getting a lot of questions lately around succession planning. We have covered this topic before , but we're going to dive a little deeper and try to take the mystery out of it.  We'll talk about the importance of communication and continual mentoring and follow up with the identified employees. 

Keep reading for more learning!

Considerations and Questions for Strategic Planning
There are a number of strategic considerations any leader needs to make when thinking about succession planning. Do you have clear answers to the following questions?
  • Why do you need succession planning in your company?
  • How well do you understand succession planning?
  • Do you have a general policy about succession planning?
  • Can you identify how succession planning will benefit your organization?
  • How does succession planning fit in relation to your overall workforce planning, talent management and leadership development?
If not, you have some work to do! Let's get started:

Take The Mystery Out Of Succession Planning

Think about how often a key person leaves and the organization is surprised—and has no one who can step in. Or there’s an opportunity for the business to grow, but no one has the skill set to make it happen. These situations only get worse when there is a war for talent. A solid succession planning process increases the likelihood that the organization has the individuals with the right skills and motivation when the business needs them.

The basic steps of succession planning are the same regardless of organizational size. Larger organizations have complex approaches because of their scale—not because the fundamentals are different.

When developing a succession planning model, you first must be sure to understand the market forces and strategies that set the path of the organization, so you have a strategic guide for context and direction. As famous baseball coach Yogi Berra wryly noted, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

The magic of succession planning happens during a series of senior leader structured conversations that must answer questions about what the business needs and how to get the most from individuals. To do this, senior leader discussions should integrate three perspectives to create a succession plan: the organizational needs, an understanding about key individuals, and the developmental processes needed to ready the individuals for future roles or to solve critical organizational issues. Make sure you talk to your identified succession planned employees - they need to know your plan and how important they are to the future of the company. This is also huge for employee retention!


Organizational needs vary—for example, the growth of the millennial workforce and their expectations, an aging senior management team that will retire in the next few years, or changes in market competition that require innovative approaches to the business. Identification of these types of issues will drive the developmental plans to ensure the right talent will be available and create the solutions necessary for success.


This part of the discussion examines individuals’ strengths and developmental needs, their personal issues, their performance, sources of motivation, and career aspirations. After understanding the individuals, a gap analysis will help bring these first two steps together—to identify how the current talent pool matches up with the organizational needs.


The third segment of the succession planning conversation uses all the approaches and tools for talent development. This is when you’ll create an action plan to close your talent gaps. The action plan allows senior line managers to identify:
  • The specific issues driving the need for talent in the business—and the implications in regard to the strengths and weaknesses of the internal workforce.
  • Who will fill what job(s)? There should be a list of “ready now” candidates for each important position, and an understanding of any concerns that might have an impact on the plan.
  • Who are the “up and comers,” what are their motivators and career interests, and where does the organization need them? What developmental plans are necessary to get them ready? Are they interested and willing to fill the position?
Succession planning needs to be an ongoing set of conversations that provide managers with the critical information and resources to engage employees and ensure the business has the talent ready to support successful future business performance.
Article Author: Ross Tartell, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor,
Psychology and Education, Columbia University

The Future is Now: Succession Planning 101

Succession planning and management involves an integrated, systematic approach to identifying, developing and retaining employees in line with current and projected business objectives. However, very early in the design process we recommend that organizations identify a common set of leadership attributes required in their workplace of tomorrow. These leadership attributes underlie the entire succession planning process, inform leaders what they need to know and do, and pinpoint what kinds of employees the organization needs to succeed. 

While your business will identify attributes relevant to your own culture, some examples include:
  • Think from the outside in
  • Drive innovation and growth
  • Develop, teach and engage others
  • Lead with energy, passion, and urgency so that teams can respond quickly to innovation
  • Demonstrate our corporate values of integrity, honesty, and professional ethics
Incorporating time to honestly and thoughtfully articulate leadership attributes will serve as a touchstone for the rest of the process and act as a guide in assessing your potential candidates. 

Similarly, regardless of the size of your organization there are key elements we recommend that are critical for effective succession planning. Developing a robust process requires any business to:
  • Secure senior level support for the process: Success won’t happen without top management endorsement and support.
  • Align succession management within overall business strategy: Line executives are much more likely to support a system that clearly reinforces corporate goals and objectives.
  • Keep the process simple: Logical, efficient processes avoid burdensome bureaucracy.
  • Engage technology to support the process: Information technology allows managers to monitor and update development needs in a timely manner.
  • Undertake a top-down review: Determine the capabilities, roles, and talent needed to execute your business strategy today and in the future.
  • Gauge your team’s bench strength: Ask the critical question “Do we have who we need – now and in the future – and if not, how do we get there?”
  • Create individualized development plans: Don’t apply a cookie-cutter approach to professional development but instead offer an assortment of opportunities such as leadership workshops, on-the-job learning, special projects, external classes or individual assignments.
  • Acknowledge your employees: Let people know they are valued contributors, they ar the future of the company and provide them opportunities for development, exposure to senior leaders, and networking across divisions.
  • Focus on retention and engagement: Incorporate rewards and recognition, a positive work environment, job autonomy, broadened scope of responsibilities, and promotion where earned.
Quick Reference: Is Your Leadership Approach to Succession Planning Updated?
Traditionally succession planning was concerned with and focused on only senior level roles, or even just the Chief Executive position. It also concentrated efforts on immediate replacement needs and was linked to specific job requirements.

Today, the approach has evolved such that an entire management process exists for comprehensive planning. Does your organization follow a leading, modern approach?

Do you ensure that:
  • focus is on key areas and positions at different levels?
  • focus is on the development of talent for the longer term?
  • plans include developing pools of talent for key areas and positions?
  • plans are linked to building competencies and skills that are required to achieve current and future business goals?
  • a systematic process is used to assess candidates based on feedback from multiple perspectives and sources of information
  • processes are in place to integrate succession planning with other HR disciplines?
Quick Reference: Let's Talk About It
One question that organizations struggle with in terms of succession planning is “Should employees know they’ve been identified as key players in a succession plan?” 

There is no one clear answer is yes!. If you don't communicate this to them, how will know how valuable they are. You need to mentor and nurture those employees - engagement and retention is key to the success of your plan.

Leaders everywhere lament the loss of employees who leave for better opportunities because they were either unaware of potential career paths or simply not engaged enough to stay. 

Many employers now work succession planning into the overall performance assessment process, both as a way to structure the succession process as well as to retain high potential employees.

The key is to let employees know that their skills and experience are highly valued and needed. Simple acknowledgement as a high potential employee and the opportunity to develop and progress in their career is often enough to retain someone.

Career planning that provides opportunities to develop leadership and work skills is the most effective way for a business to demonstrate that it values employees’ talent and leadership potential. 

Quick Reference: Talent Development Priorities
Succession planning is not just about identifying a "successor." The process identifies the roles and people resources needed over the next 3-5 years to meet your company's strategic plan.

It assesses what skills your current people have and need, and identifies the coaching and education required to advance them.

It also identifies what to look for in new hires and should focus on enhancing the capacity of your people so they can take on more responsibilities as the company grows. 

Below are steps you can take to prioritize and develop your talent:
  • Create a robust on-boarding process for new hires.
  • Strengthen the talent pipeline and succession management process by focusing on a cyclical, continuous identification process.
  • Train managers to monitor and assess succession planning processes according to business goals and company culture.
  • Integrate a set of key core competencies for each role.
  • Identify and then develop high potentials and top talent across all levels by implementing specific, tailored development plans for each employee.
  • Establish effective career planning and development measures by making it simple for employees to complete the identified devel-opment activities.
  • Measure and work continually to increase employee engagement.
  • Recognize exceptional performers with special assignments, action learning, and web-based development activities.
  • Deploy key talent across roles/ functions/regions.
  • Mentor, guide, coach, and train key talent.
Coach's Corner: Not Everyone Wants a Leadership Position

We tend to think that everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder and be the next CEO but this is not necessarily the case. During succession planning, it is important to check in with those identified as the next leaders of the organization and ask the question, "Is this what you want in your career?" You may be surprised by the answer.

Coaching can help individuals explore where they see their careers going and what their individual strengths are; they can even make some personal peace with and affirmation of their choices.

Obtain feedback:

Complete a 360 review of the individual to determine what colleagues/business partners see as this person's strengths, weaknesses, and potential. Discuss the feedback honestly with the individual.

Questions to discuss with the candidate:
  • Where do you see yourself three years from now?
  • What does leadership mean to you?
  • When you think about yourself as a leader - what do you see?
  • What does success mean to you?
  • How do you define personal disappointment?
  • If you could do anything for a career, what would it be?
  • How does leadership fit in with your lifestyle? Now and in the future?
  • If leadership is not in your future, then what is?
  • Explore the individual's passions and skills.
Prepare an action plan to move forward:

If leadership is the path, identify development areas and action them for the next 3-5 years in a detailed personalized Career Plan. Perhaps it is course work, or - a favourite at Wendy Ellen Inc. - mentorship.

If leadership is not the path, focus on the employee's skills and passions as well as how they will contribute to the organization in a different way. A strong Career Plan is also necessary for non-leaders in order to keep them engaged in the organization.

Available in ebook and soft cover at Wendy Ellen Inc.

Available for Kindle on Amazon
Succession planning requires a comprehensive, holistic approach.

Contact Wendy Ellen Inc. for all your HR needs today!
About Wendy Ellen Inc.
Wendy Ellen Inc. specializes in providing human resource and benefits management skills to small to mid-sized companies on an as-needed basis. From recruitment, Human Resource policy development and legislative compliance, employee retention and engagement, individual advisor/coaching, succession planning to employee development and performance, Wendy Ellen Inc. will help you protect your most valuable resource, your people.
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