Attracting and keeping talented employees is an ongoing issue for most companies. Though the more public searches for high-level executives at large companies are extreme examples, finding talent at all levels can be a tough chore no matter what size the organization, taking time and resources away from the core business mission. Unexpected and unpredictable departures are caused by innumerable factors, and getting a handle on issues related to executive movement can be difficult and time consuming.
Companies with healthy morale and focused, determined employees don’t just happen overnight. It takes foresight and planning. This is the dilemma: How does an organization, particularly a human resources department, blend the talents and career goals of every employee, while at the same time, manage internal recruiting and succession planning across the organization?
Businesses long ago started to invest in internal systems to track employee performance, formalize ongoing employee recruitment, and manage workforce development—from a corporate training and education perspective. Though providing value, these efforts often fall short because they exist as distinct disciplines in different areas of the company with no formal linkages between them. The challenges remain daunting for companies searching for better ways to target talented members of their workforce when an internal position becomes vacant.
Succession planning to the rescue
A new dawn has broken for companies looking to better manage their workforce. Innovative technologies allow for a "bottom-to-top" mentality that leaves no talented employee behind and helps organizations build a deep bench from which staffers can recruit and promote.
Succession planning is no longer an activity that starts the day someone leaves a company. Effective succession planning is a process that happens every day, throughout an organization, impacting every employee. In this endeavor, technology investments, accessed from a desktop or remote laptop computer, can turn this potential logistical nightmare into an efficient, sustainable and easily managed corporate initiative.
Succession planning tools can be provided separately or as part of a larger set of business applications. Recently, a highly flexible and easily customized generation of human capital management (HCM) solutions has introduced succession planning functionality as a way to tie together corporate learning and development efforts to increase retention rates and save time and money with both internal and external recruiting.
A truly efficient and fully realized succession planning program will provide several elements, including
- a collection of employee data including career history and skills
- automated management of corporate wide succession plans based on that data
- accurate development plans to enhance employee skills through ongoing training initiatives
- detailed skill assessment for specific teams
- a robust internal recruiting operation that takes into account the distinct skills of its own workforce.
Through the use of HCM software that blends human resources data collection and ongoing organizational development efforts, businesses can take advantage of this wealth of information on their workforce to create and disseminate a set of HR initiatives that identify organizational strengths and weaknesses.
Organizations can then use the data collected from these HR programs to develop talent across every level of the business, and identify in-house candidates that are best suited to be promoted from within. Using individualized development plans, a company can tie overall corporate goals to individual employee growth potential. They can also provide a step-by-step process that can be used by an employee as a map for skill improvement.
The result of such efforts can be extraordinary. Detailed management of employee skills and development can help companies to optimize employee performance, boost morale, and ensure a more in-depth understanding of the hierarchy of the organization. This can then be matched to corporate strategies and development goals. While the task of replacing employees can often be a painstaking process, new technologies offer a way to change this challenge into an opportunity for enlightenment that was never available before.
Looking for the Right Succession Planning Tools
Succession planning makes talent management easy for managers, administrators, and employees, but only if you have the right tools. In order to make the most out of succession planning efforts, businesses should ensure that the solution they choose has the right tools for the job.
A strong succession planning solution should allow an organization to keep track of upwardly mobile employees, optimize performance across the board, build effective and efficient teams in real-time, address team strengths and weaknesses, and increase competitive advantage and plan for long-term organizational health.
Below are the core features to look for in an effective succession planning solution that can make your organization’s efforts most effective:
Career profiling tools
Career profiling tools capture the skills and experiences of your workforce, and create an online resume of sorts, which allow managers to search individual skill profiles to fill critical workforce openings. In just a few steps, these tools should allow you to find the right successor for a key role, or assemble work groups on the basis of critical strengths and past experience.
Internal tracking databases should store and track information. such as
Team building tools
• previous roles or experiences
• additional training, skills, or positions.
A team building tool provides cost-effective identification of project team candidates, allowing you to efficiently leverage the disparate skill sets of your workforce. A team building tool empowers organizations to quickly search talent databases and build teams based on such criteria as
• functional requirements
• previous positions
A team building tool should also include such advanced search capabilities as those described above, as well as the ability to search by business unit or group of employees. As a result, you can search the entire organization and locate the best possible team in terms of talent, geography, and efficiency. Once you have identified a set of qualified employees to make up your team, the results can be saved and shared among project managers.
Candidate search tools
A candidate search tool is an internal recruiting tool that allows you to identify top candidates for open positions. If the candidate search tool is automated, the search for these candidates is immediate, reducing the recruiting time necessary, along with the associated costs involved.
Automated capabilities of the system should enable
• rights-driven searching of top candidates for open positions
Talent management plans
• the ability to define search criteria
• identification and matching of the necessary skills
• management and tracking of internal candidates throughout the recruiting process.
Talent management and succession planning tools allow organizations to closely manage their workforce to quickly identify high-potential employees and their skills. A talent management system maps individuals against other employees across the organization in order to effectively manage individual employee career development and succession. Closely managing talent across the entire enterprise enables an organization to increase retention by challenging these high-potential employees with increased responsibility and the option of upward mobility.
Talent management planning tools should
• identify business and people priorities
• map employees on a graphical grid in order to see varying degrees of performance and potential
• provide a view of the current organizational structure, as well as plan the future organizational structure
• identify future open positions based on the future organizational structure
• generate talent management plans and succession plans based on employee competency assessments as well as career profiles.
Succession planning technology keeps it simple
While the prospect of managing succession at every level of the organization was unimaginable in the manual world, on-demand applications enable companies to quickly manage succession, track retention risk, and identify high potential employees throughout the entire enterprise. Since new flexible solutions easily integrate into existing business applications and human resources system investments, culling the appropriate data to build a warehouse of information about employees that can be maintained and leveraged as needed, virtually no administration is required to manage new hires, promotions, and terminations.
Replacing employees is an unwieldy, cumbersome task at most companies. Left with an empty desk and few leads, some companies have to scramble to get up-to-speed on what alternatives are available to them, internally and externally. A "fire drill" method of succession planning typically ensues, often resulting in the need for external recruits.
Because the on-demand system available 24x7, team building and internal recruiting can be done at any time, enabling rapid responses to unplanned departures. Not only have successors potentially been identified for the newly opened position, but the data available through the succession planning application allows you to search for talent based on any number of attributes, competencies, employee performance, or location.
Let’s say for example that you need to hire a manager for a new branch opened in Arizona. A succession planning application will enable you to identify high-performing, qualified candidates with prior management experience, the proper educational level, and a willingness to relocate to Arizona. Clearly, such a system provides for more effective internal recruiting.
A rock star around every corner
Every company wants to keep its top people and continuously strengthen its team. But how can you do this if you do not know who your top people are? By allowing for succession planning deep within the organization, HCM tools solve this problem on two levels:
- automated succession planning tools enable you to identify high potential employees deep within the organization
- integrated learning management functionality enables you to place those high potential employees on executive development tracks earlier in their careers; thereby, strengthening your team and increasing retention of your top employees.
With new technologies, this process can run smoothly, providing companies with the tools they need to better understand their workforce assets and make the best hiring and promotion decisions. By using a detailed set of criteria, culled through use of sophisticated databases, human resources professionals have a more integrated set of data to work with when recruiting talent, analyzing the current workforce, and pondering internal promotions. They also can better ensure compliance with EEOC requirements.
While it is clear that succession planning is vital across the organization, for individuals within the workforce, the benefits are significant as well. An integrated succession planning system can help to show the individual employee just where the future potential is within the company in terms of career growth and promotion potential. This can’t be discounted: employees often leave because they feel unwanted or otherwise ignored. A comprehensive succession plan monitors individual performance and development initiatives, at all levels, and ensures that key recruits do not slip through the cracks.
Whether it’s a search for a new chief executive, or a directive to fill an unmanned junior position, an organization that takes advantage of the latest succession planning technologies, and integrates them with their employee performance and development initiatives, will realize significant gains in productivity, morale, and ROI.
The underlying message of this new generation of succession planning is simple: There are rock star employees across your entire organization, from the executive suite down to the smallest office cube. It is incumbent upon today’s businesses to develop and track processes that identify and cultivate these employees, providing them with a clear path to develop their future potential. In this manner, the workforce as a whole becomes a stronger, more focused organization with a clear plan in place for the future. Business may be cut-throat, but leveraging your human capital assets and planning for succession doesn’t have to be.
Published: March 2005