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Proactively Planning for Succession

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Your organization should always be preparing for the unexpected. Any key leadership vacancy can have an impact on your business. Being prepared for such an event can minimize the negative impact. Below are some tips to help you plan for leadership succession.

Identify critical roles first. Many succession planning efforts start with looking at who would be good candidates for succession. A better way to start is to identify the roles critical to the business. Starting with critical roles allows you to find your succession gaps and focus your attention on filling those holes.

Look for depth. In mid-sized to large organizations, having only one person on a succession plan for a role can create a false sense of security that there is adequate coverage. To add depth, look for individuals who might be able to fill the role in 1-2 years or 3-5 years as a back up anyone who is ready today.

Engage the individuals. Don’t just assume that because someone is on a succession plan they will be ready to fill the role when you need them. They need to be actively engaged in their own development so they will be prepared when they are needed.

Revisit often. A succession plan is a living document. Pull it out regularly (at least twice a year) to make sure the succession lists are still valid. Are the judgments you made last year about a succession candidate’s readiness still accurate? Has someone else risen in the organization and should be considered for succession? How have those on the list been developing?

Leadership succession planning is one of those topics like insurance: you can’t start working on it when you suddenly need it. Start planning today for what may come. PAS’ Human Resource Services (HRS) division is available to assist your organization with:

Succession Planning

Leadership Assessment Center Development and Administration

Leadership Training and Development

Revisit often. A succession plan is a living document.

Some examples of how our consultants can help to facilitate and propel your succession planning process include:

Candidate Identification

Candidate identification involves both identifying potential candidates to be part of the succession planning process as well as gauging candidate interest in development and progression. Organizations often do not involve the potential candidates in this process, leading to plans that either have unwilling candidates or that miss people who would be willing and able to fill the roles. Encouraging participation in this part of the process promotes open dialogue about development and ensures development planning is aligned with employee career desires.

Managers searching for and recognizing the potential in their employees fuel the identification process. The most effective processes identify the critical indicators of potential talent and communicate those indicators across the management ranks. The succession planning process then creates a regular checkpoint for the organization through which the potential of each employee is assessed. Managers are asked to nominate to the succession planning review process employees who have demonstrated high performance potential.

Through focus groups with senior managers, HRS consultants will develop a checklist of indicators based on your organization’s competencies that help predict success as managers. The tool will be designed to help your managers consistently identify those with potential for additional responsibilities. The tool will also be a guide to help managers initiate a conversation with employees regarding their development.

Talent Review Process

Plans are typically revisited and adjusted annually, but the specific needs of the organization may require more frequent review of talent and talent development. In addition, the succession planning process should be integrated with other human capital processes including performance evaluation, development planning, promotion and hiring, and strategic planning.

Proactively Planning for Succession (continued)

To take advantage of the talent review process created above, HRS consultants are available to meet with groups of managers to review the skills and contributions of high potential candidates, assess their future potential and provide input into the next development steps. Alternatively, HRS consultants can train and transfer the skills and knowledge to your staff so they are able to conduct the talent review process internally.

Leadership Development Assessment

One highly efficient and effective system to assess leadership potential is the establishment of an assessment center tailored to the needs of the organization. Assessment centers are typically three-quarter to one full day of work-like exercises during which a group of participants are observed by trained, professional assessors who evaluate their performance and potential. The assessment center is designed to elicit behaviors along specific dimensions that are related to managerial success. Exercises are customized to reflect the culture and common challenges faced by the organization and can include:

Presentation Exercises

Written Correspondence Exercises

Group exercises

Role Plays

Based on the participant’s performance in the assessment center, feedback is provided to both the participant and their manager. A focused development plan is created based on the individual strengths and developmental needs identified. Development plans create the most impact when they are coupled with regular follow-up and coaching that reinforces behavior change and learning.

Assessment center exercises are customized to reflect the culture and common challenges faced by the organization and can include:

Presentation Exercises

Participants are asked to plan for the implementation of a new project. They are asked to incorporate scheduling, budgeting and resource planning. This type of exercise may measure the ability to:

Analyze complex data and issues

Seek solutions

Plan projects

Represent their findings

In Box Exercises

Participants are asked to assume a role of manager of a fictitious company and work through a series of correspondence that has been left in their “In Box”. These exercises commonly measure skills such as:

Ability to organize and prioritize work


Communicate with team members and customers



Group exercises

Group exercises involve participants working together as a team to resolve a presented issue. These exercises commonly measure interpersonal skills such as group leadership, teamwork, negotiation, and group problem solving skills. Group exercises may range from leaderless group discussion formats to problem solving scenarios.

Role Plays

Participants are asked to assume the role of a supervisor or manager and handle a particular performance situation. Managers may be asked to provide feedback to a sales representative staff member after viewing a videotape of the sales representative’s call with a client, or to meet with a same level manager of another section to gain their agreement on a service delivery strategy. These types of exercises may measure:

Oral communication

Problem solving


Ability to influence

For more information on how HRS can assist your organization, please contact Lauren Tucker, Director of Account Services at 800.356.0845 or

email her at [email protected].

This article is not intended to be construed as legal advice, but is provided as an overview of good business practices.

PAS-It-On © 2009 by PAS and HRS, Inc. 9735 Landmark Pkwy., Ste. 17, St. Louis, MO 63127-9968