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Succession Planning: High Potential

January 17, 2017

We are on the verge of Trump being officially sworn in as Obama’s successor into the White House.  This is a choice that the American people have made through a democratic vote; a vote that is influenced by claims from each presidential candidate about what they can do to help America.  Yet when deciding their vote, the American people don’t know whether their chosen presidential successor will actually be able to deliver on these promises, they have no evidence of this.

Luckily with consideration and dedication, we don’t have to face as much uncertainty when identifying leadership successors in business. But there are still some uncertainties…will they be able to deliver at a more senior leadership level?  Will they be able to adapt to the demands of a more challenging role? Are there even any appropriate successors within the business or will this result in the need to buy in expertise?

Even in the American presidential elections, the people know who the potential successors are before the current president steps down.  Is that always the case within your business?  Do you know the possible successors for your own role?  Does HR have clarity on who could possibly step up into key leadership positions?

Businesses with effective succession planning strategies know this information and keep it up to date based on a review of the potential suitors both internally and externally.  This is important to keep business functioning in the right way and to avoid gaps in key roles.  However, this shouldn’t just be about planning for the knowns, such as retirement, but also the unknowns, such as leaders leaving for a new challenge.  Not forgetting as well, the subsequent gaps that might be left by successors stepping up into a role – what about the role they leave behind?  A succession planning strategy isn’t just about leadership, it’s all levels of the organisation. This allows a great opportunity for development and progression within the workplace.  Importantly, the identification of individuals with high potential helps to add to your succession planning and is important to do at all staff levels.

One thing businesses can have over and above the presidential elections is greater certainty around the capabilities of their people and their potential to operate at a more senior level.  Achievement against KPIs, appraisal ratings, workplace evidence and an objective assessment of an individual’s technical and behavioural capabilities all indicate an individual has the potential to move into a more senior role.  The earlier a business can identify, harness and develop that potential, the more likely they are to retain key employees and have a robust succession plan in place to protect the business for the future.

Whilst a new president cannot guarantee they will achieve what they say they will, a business can be assured in the evidence they have of the likelihood of an individual’s ability to deliver at a more senior role.

As Trump steps into power and appoints people to the key roles within the senate, successors he has probably been aware of and made decisions about a long time ago, businesses should take this opportunity to reflect on:

  • Who they would appoint into their key leadership roles?
  • Who would backfill other roles?
  • Where the potential successors outside their business are?
  • Ultimately, whether any of these individuals have the potential capability to deliver in these new roles?