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Explore our related content Succession planning focuses on identifying and growing talent to fill leadership and business-critical positions in the future. In the face of skills shortages, succession planning has gained popularity, and is now carried out in both large and smaller organisations.
This factsheet examines the typical roles covered by succession planning as well as the type of organisations who use it, and the difference between traditional and more recent approaches. It also looks at the activities covered by succession planning programmes, providing guidance on identifying successors, and the role of HR throughout this process.
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Management training and development activities alone cannot provide the hands-on experience that is crucial in making future leaders. Succession planning is an important way to manage the delivery of that experience, complemented by management training and development activities, and aligned with business needs.
Organisations need to ensure that they continually review and develop their succession plans to meet current and future skills, capability and behavioural needs and to ensure that succession planning is closely aligned with evolving business priorities.
What is succession planning? Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing potential future leaders or senior managers, as well as individuals to fill other business-critical positions, either in the short- or the long-term. As well as training and development activities, succession planning programmes typically include the provision of practical, tailored work experience relevant for future senior or key roles.
The aim is for the organisation to be able to fill key roles effectively if the current post holder were to leave the organisation. Which posts are covered by succession planning? A first step is to identify the business-critical positions or roles in the organisation for which potential successors are needed.
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One example could be non-leadership technical roles that could leave an organisation vulnerable, if unfilled promptly. Individual positions Succession planning typically covers the most senior jobs in the organisation, together with short-term and longer-term successors for these posts.
The latter group are in effect on a fast-track and may be developed through job moves or secondments within various parts of the business. This focus on the most senior posts means that even in large organisations, only a few hundred people at any given time would be subject to the succession planning process.
The relatively low numbers involved can help make the process more manageable. That said, many large organisations attempt to operate devolved models in divisions, sites or countries where the same or similar processes are applied to a wider population.
Roles, not jobs — the use of pools While some jobs will always require specialists, there is a growing focus on identifying and developing groups of jobs to enable potential successors to be identified for a variety of roles.
The aim is to develop pools of talented people, each of whom is adaptable and capable of filling a number of roles. Because succession planning is concerned with developing longer-term successors as well as short-term replacements, each pool will be considerably larger than the range of posts it covers.
Who uses succession planning? All organisations need to be able to find people with the right skills to fill key positions. Traditionally, large blue-chip companies ran highly-structured, confidential and top-down succession schemes aimed at identifying internal successors for key posts and planning their career paths to provide the necessary range of experience.
But with growing uncertainty, increasing speed of change in the business environment and flatter structures, succession planning of this sort has declined.
A further problem with traditional succession planning was that it failed to take account of non-managerial roles — a brilliant scientist, for example, who might be crucial to the future of the organisation and who wanted to stay in a research role. In a climate of enduring skills shortages and research suggesting there's a lack of confidence in the leadership potential within the existing workforce, interest in succession planning has revived.
Yet, recent reports suggest that despite growing investment in leadership development, the improvement in leader quality has stalled. Our research report Leadership — easier said than done looks at the barriers to leadership and good people management in practice, and emphasises that development of future leaders has to be aligned with supportive organisational processes reward and recognition, decision-making, cross-functional working and organisational culture.
Modern succession planning looks quite different from the old version, with a broader vision, greater openness and diversity and closer links to wider talent management practices.
For example, progressive organisations who adopt an inclusive whole workforce approach to managing and developing talent will look to identify business critical roles at multiple levels within their organisation.
Talent management covers a wide range of activities designed to attract, recruit, identify, develop, engage, retain and deploy talented individuals — with a focus on attracting external talent as well as nurturing internal talent. Many, however, seem to rely either too much on outsiders or too much on insiders, suggesting that it is difficult to find the right balance.
It's also sometimes argued that outsiders should not be brought in at board level but somewhere below it, so that people with outside experience can become accustomed to the corporate culture and undergo development before making the next step up. Others, though, argue that if an objective business case can be made for bringing in outsiders at board level, this should be done where appropriate, and in particular that a failing business needs to recruit from outside - and to be seen to be doing so - to satisfy investors.Consultancy spending approval process: Initial guidance to NHS foundation trusts Summary 1.
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NHS Operational Planning and Contracting Guidance – NHS England and NHS Improvement published the operational and contracting planning guidance three months earlier than normal to help local organisations plan more strategically. business continuity management (Local Authorities only).
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