- Evidence-Based Succession Planning
Putting a Plan into Place that Avoids Breaks in Leadership Continuity.
Many respected experts on effective leadership have reported that the hallmark of every successful organization is not only the caliber of its leadership, but also the continuity among those who lead their organizations toward higher levels of performance. Yet, within our American workforce, there is a declining attachment to employers. Across all levels of organizations, a less loyal and less knowledgeable labor force has a profoundly negative effect on these organizations’ productivity and profitability.
Unfortunately, the absence of established and effective succession planning exposes organizations to needless and avoidable breaks in continuity. It also predisposes them to lose business opportunities and revenue, experience unnecessary turnover, and deal with the consequences of decreased productivity.
Such breaks often result in an experienced leader being replaced by another individual requiring an extended “learning curve.” The new leader is unfamiliar with the culture, internal politics, unique product or service offerings, and the history of how things are accomplished in that organization. Also, without formalized continuity planning programs, leaders tend to choose successors whose backgrounds and leadership styles are similar to their own and who are not likely to meet their organizations’ longer term needs.
In contrast, effective succession planning offers many benefits. Research has found that those organizations providing clear opportunities for professional growth and promotion from within are significantly more profitable and successful. Giving employees these opportunities for career growth and development often leads to increased patient and employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention.
At Synergy, we have developed the following guidelines for effective succession planning:
- Obtain buy-in from key stakeholders because an organization’s program will be limited by the extent to which it has earned their support.
- Assess current progress and identify the organization’s future talent requirements.
- Give particular attention to the disparity between organizational strategy and the competency of the leaders who will be required to implement it; programs must be designed to address these gaps and reinforce the organization’s core values and philosophy.
- Determine which organizational levels need to be included, establish program priorities, and develop a roll out strategy with timelines.
- Refine the process through a systematic review of the program’s effectiveness against predetermined benchmarks.
Another key to effective succession planning is an organization’s ability to differentiate those employees who are most likely to develop and meet its needs from those who will not produce the desired return on investment. This is especially critical with leaders. In fact, Synergy’s national research study found that the cost of promoting the wrong person can easily cost an organization six to ten times that individual’s annual salary.
Synergy has found that one way to encourage those charged with ensuring the continued, long-term success of organizations is to ask them: “What would your organization do if it suddenly lost one or more executive team members?”