Browsing the archives for the succession planning tag.

Five thoughts about succession planning

Geek 5, Managing people, Talent Management

We’ve talked about what succession planning is, what succession ratings mean, and the difference between performance and potential.  Here are some key points to consider:

1.  Succession planning is about identifying key talent and developing employees for bigger roles.

2.  This planning is a form of risk management for the company.  It ensures that key roles have back up, so the business will not be significantly impacted if someone leaves.

3.  Performance and potential are not the same thing.  The best sales representative is not necessarily the best manager of the sales group.

4.  As a manager of people, you have a dual role in succession planning.  You must consider the potential and development of your direct reports and you, as an employee, are discussed in the process.

5.  You can improve your standing in succession planning by:

  • doing an outstanding job in your current role
  • showing a willingness to take on bigger responsibilities
  • living the values and competencies developed by your company
  • letting your boss and other key leaders know about your career goals
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Good Now Doesn’t Mean Great Later

Geek 5, Managing people, Talent Management

If you are a manager, or aspire to be a manager, you will probably be required at some point to evaluate the potential of your direct reports for a succession planning process.  It is part of the “Managing People” risk of the Geek 5.

One common point of confusion for managers is the difference between performance and potential.  Many managers assume that is an employee is a superstar at her job then she will be great for bigger roles and promotions.  Sometimes that is true, but just as often it is not true.

Performance and potential are not the same concept. 

Performance looks at the quality and quantity of what was done in the past.  It measures behaviors and actions and accomplishment of goals.  Performance is measured during performance reviews.

Potential looks at what an associate is capable of doing in the future.  Employees with high potential are also generally good performers.  They are good at their current job, but they also have the ability and drive and skills to take on bigger roles and to be successful at higher levels.

Some employees do outstanding work in their current jobs, but are best suited for staying in that role.  They are high performers in performance reviews but correctly placed for succession planning. 

Here are some possible scenarios with different performance and potential.

PAT:  Pat does well in the current job.  Pat’s does not exhibit any of the skills or competencies needed for future roles.  Pat is like a “Professional in Position”. Pat earns a good performance review rating and gets a bonus and a merit increase. In succession planning, Pat is rated as Correctly Placed.  He is best suited for his current role.

CHRIS:  Chris does well in the current job.  Chris also shows some of the skills and competencies needed to work at a higher level.  For example, Chris shows the ability to learn new information and is often seen as a “go-to” person.  Chris earns a good performance review rating and gets a bonus and a merit increase. Chris shows long-term potential for promotion and is rated as Promotable in succession planning.  With development, Chris is expected to be ready in 1-3 years to move to a bigger role.

SAM: Sam was rated as Highly Promotable in previous succession planning.  Having strong potential and strong performance, Sam just got an exciting promotion into a challenging new role.  Sam earns a great performance review rating and gets a bonus and a merit increase. Sam is learning the new position and working to adapt key skills to the new role.  Although all signs indicate success in the future, Sam is rated in the current succession planning as Correctly Placed.  In the new role, Sam has some growth and learning to do.

In all of these scenarios, the employees were strong performers and they were rewarded during performance reviews.  However, they were rated differently in succession planning.

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Are You High Potential?

Geek 5, Leadership, Org savvy

In a previous post, we discussed the overall succession planning process and covered some basic definitions like “pipeline” and “bench chart”. Succession planning has dual importance to you as a leader. One important element is that you will participate in the process to rate and discuss and develop your direct reports. The other element is that you will be rated and discussed – it impacts your future success. For the Geek 5, succession planning relates to leadership and organizational savvy.

Typically during succession planning, each employee is given a rating by his or her direct manager. Specific language of the ratings varies across companies. Usually the ratings include an evaluation of the employee’s potential to move to bigger roles and they include a time frame.

For example:

A high potential employee is often defined as someone who has the potential to move up 1-2 levels in the organization in the next 2-3 years. Potential is based on having the skills and cognitive ability and interpersonal skills and organizational savvy to succeed in bigger roles.

Additional ratings could include:

  • Promotable – an employee with the potential to move up one level over time
  • Correctly Placed – an employee who is in the right role for now
  • Placement Issue – an employee who is not being successful in a current role
  • Emerging Talent – an employee who shows early signs of being high potential, but it is too early to know for sure

Some important things to note:

  • Ratings are fluid – an employee can be Correctly Placed one year and High Potential the next year. Ratings can also slip backwards.
  • When someone gets promoted, he or she generally moves to Correctly Placed until the new job is mastered.
  • Ratings are not a promise. Promotions are always a balance between the needs of the company and the developmental needs of the employee. The employee might be ready to move, but there might not be an opportunity available.
  • Ratings are used to highlight key employees and to build a bench chart. They are also used to target key development opportunities. High Potential employees are likely to get more specialized developmental opportunities than Correctly Placed employees. However, it is important to do basic development for everyone.
  • Succession planning will sometimes identify “blockers”. This is not usually an official rating, but it merits discussion. Blockers are employees in a critical role who have stalled out. They are often blocking high potential associates from moving up. Sometimes it is necessary to re-assign blockers.

A healthy organization has a mix of all of the ratings – with few or no Placement Issues. High Potentials are often about 5% of the population. That group should be limited and well-screened, so it can be given special attention. Correctly Placed employees are important players who get things done on a daily basis. Hopefully Placement Issues are small in number and can be re-assigned or moved out of the business.

Succession is one critical talent management process that is focused on the future. In a future post, we’ll discuss how current performance and future potential interact.

So how would you rate your direct reports?  How would you rate yourself?

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The Mysteries of Succession Planning

Leadership, Managing people, Org savvy, Talent Management

I find that succession planning is often perceived in organizations as a mysterious and unknowable and threatening process. Employees know that it impacts promotions and career decisions, but they are not sure exactly how. What magic happens in succession planning?

Over the next few posts, I’m going to pull back the curtain and reveal some truths about succession planning – what it is, how it typically works, what you might be expected to do as a leader of people and how you can position yourself positively for the process. This relates to the Geek 5 in terms of actions you may need to take as a leader and a manager. It also relates to your own organizational savvy and career growth.

Succession planning is a key talent management process – especially at larger organization. Each company executes it differently, but it usually follow some basic assumptions and goals.

Succession planning is intended to:

  • identify a pipeline of talent for key positions and create a bench chart
  • discuss the identification of high potentials, with a focus on development needs and possible actions
  • discuss the career potential, performance, and development needs of targeted individuals

Succession planning is about getting people ready for bigger and more critical roles in the organization. It is about risk management. The company needs to make sure that there are employees ready to fill in if a key person leaves or if there is growth and new roles open up. The company wants to have a group of employees who are well-trained and ready to take on expanded roles. Succession planning is about finding those people, setting plans to work on skills gaps, tracking them and getting them ready for when they are needed.

A pipeline of talent refers to the need to think about talent at all levels in the company. For instance, you can’t just focus on successors for one key role. Because if you move a successor into that role, then you need to backfill the old role. You need to know which employees are ready for that.

A bench chart is a document that actually lists positions and indicates who would be considered a successor for that role. Sometimes positions have multiple people listed on the bench chart as potential successors. Some of them might be “Ready Now” for the role and some might be ready in 1 or 2 or 3 years.

If a position comes open, the leadership team can use succession planning information like the bench chart and determine if there is a good internal candidate ready for the role. If so, it is a much easier and cheaper transition than hiring someone from the outside.

In the next post, we’ll talk about succession planning ratings (such as high potential) and explain the difference between performance and potential.

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Rating the Slime Factor

Favorite posts, Geek 5, Leadership, Org savvy, Uncategorized

Part of leadership (Geek 5 risk) is developing talent in future leaders.  One key part of this process is succession planning.  I sat in a succession planning meeting the other day that introduced a whole new element of talent management – the slime factor. I’ve facilitated a lot of succession planning meetings. Generally we discuss the behaviors of the employee – with a focus on current performance and future potential. If performance is good and potential is strong, that employee is rated a being “high-potential”. That label can lead to special development opportunities and assignments and usually leads to a promotion.

Our conversation was moving along well. The group I was working with is composed of seasoned executives. We’ve been doing succession planning meetings for a few years and have got the rhythm down. Then we got stuck. We were discussing an employee who was a very strong performer – let’s call him Ted. Ted works out in the field – in an operational, metric-driven role. Operationally and metrically, he was strong. Even so, when his name was brought up, there was silence around the table.

Hmmmm…. As a facilitator, this is when the warning flag is raised. I asked the group to describe Ted’s working style. Was he using the right behaviors to get his strong results? It is a common scenario that some employees get strong results by destroying everyone and everything around them. In our company that behavior is not tolerated. We have a leadership competency model that requires employees to get results through collaboration and critical thinking and good judgment.  Everyone in the room shook their heads – Ted wasn’t mean or difficult or cutting corners or sabotaging others. The group just couldn’t explain it.

Finally one of the few female leaders in the room blurted out – “He’s just slimy!” That broke the spell – everyone started talking and laughing – and agreeing. He is slimy. Slimy is hard to quantify, but there was strong agreement in the room about it.

Here is what slimy meant:

  • Ted made people feel uncomfortable – even if they could not explain why.
  • One leader described Ted as someone who would “check out all the women in the room”, but he never crossed the line into sexual harassment.
  • Ted always seemed close to crossing a line – in his jokes or attitude or touching.
  • In social situations he often seemed awkward and not part of the group.

Most of these descriptions are intangible.  I always try to push groups to focus on specific behaviors.  However, in this case, slimy seemed to fit. It was enough reason for the group to label him as “Correctly Placed” and plan to keep an eye on is behavior.

Slimy trumps strong performance.  Do you have Slimy Ted’s in your company?

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