ESS101(S2011): Succession PLanning

  • 21 Jul 2011 00:27
    Message # 659445
    Jun (Administrator)
    QUESTION: "How can succession planning help an organization in its selection and staffing process?  Does your organization use succession planning?  If so, tell us how it has positively impacted your organization. Also, what challenges do you have in succession planning and how do you handle them?"

    TO DOs
    1. Participate in online forum discussion by Tuesday, July 26
    2. Feel free to critique or comment on your classmates' answers
  • 24 Jul 2011 20:15
    Reply # 661798 on 659445
    Jackie Chisholm

    Unfortunately I have not yet had the opportunity to work in a company that conducts effective succession planning.  Although succession planning was something that was recognized as being worthwhile, there was a feeling that this was only able to be achieved in large corporations where sufficient time and dedicated resources were available to make it happen. 


    Although official succession planning did not exist, the term came up from time to time, however in the majority of cases it was purely referring to role replacement and did not take into consideration the full scope of succession planning which proactively explores and identifies ways to develop employees to take on key roles BEFORE they become available.  Despite the fact that there were often capable employees within the organization that were willing to take on challenging new roles, the reality was that it was too late to start developing an employee for a particular role after it became vacant.  If the entire required skill set was not present from the outset, all too often the easiest option was to pick up the phone and call a recruiter/headhunter to assist with identifying a replacement from an external source.  Obviously this is not only a time consuming, but also costly option and so it makes sense for companies to spend the time and money required for effective succession planning to ensure that they can retain their most valued employees. 


    As top talent thrive for opportunities to grow, it is usually just a matter of time before they begin considering other options if they feel that they are not going anywhere in terms of their career development and so succession planning is a must for companies, regardless of size if they are determined to hold onto their key employees. 


  • 25 Jul 2011 10:29
    Reply # 662106 on 659445
    Matthew Ferguson
    Jackie seems to have hit on all the key points that I would have myself mentioned.
    It seems to me that succession planning is key to maintaining an employees motivation. As you give continued training to the individual there should hopefully also be an increase in their organizational commitment. I believe that long term this means you have a better chance of keeping top performers within your organization.

    It seems that there are several elements that organizations find daunting in terms of succession planning though. Firstly there is a matter of identifying potential  (and in a smaller organization the question of whether you have the potential you need). Secondly there is identification of and development of training programs plus their cost to bring several people to the necessary level then you will and finally there is the fact that you will have to replace a highly skilled employee at the lower level.

    I think that a key reason that many companies are fearful of succession planning is that as you train and develop employees they have more potential and are more likely to seek employment elsewhere. On occasion this will no doubt happen. Ironically in the kind of organization where this mentality prevails I feel this is likely to be self-fulfilling. These organizations want to limit individuals so that they feel they are unlikely to get a different job. However if the organization succeeds they will have disempowered employees with low motivation and low goals. Even worse any high potential individuals will seek training on their own and be damned if they are going to use those self taught skills to support an organization which has held them back, thus they will leave.  

    My previous company had in fact tried to implement a form of succession planning in the past to cover my position. This involved having someone at teacher level come into the head office and assist the manager in a kind of OJT.  The company tried this 2 times but each time the result was that the teacher quit. 

    The conclusions drawn by the president were: 
    1. This is causing us to lose good teachers.
    2. Teachers are leaving because they are being given training that is giving them the skills to take better opportunities. 
    3. It is cheaper to hire for 1 managerial position outside the company than have to hire multiple replacement teachers. 

    However I think that the real reason this failed were more likely the result of other factors. 
    1. Teachers could not see how they could play to their strengths in the new role.
    2. Teachers were only given administrative training but they were expected to take on event planning, marketing, and business development. 
    3. Teachers were moving from an environment of freedom to implement their ideas as they saw fit to a restrictive "Check everything with the boss" mentality. 
    4. Teachers felt that once they had agreed to the OJT they were committed and could not back out without leaving the company entirely.
    As a result we can see that a well designed training package with clear growth delineated is key for such a major role change. Furthermore putting "all your eggs into one basket" is not a good idea. It limits the options of that individual and if they decide to leave you are back to square one despite your investment of time and money. 

    However this does raise one more challenge. If multiple people are groomed for a single position then there will be some who will feel cheated if they don't gain their "deserved" promotion. This requires high transparency in the decision making process and probably will mean the company should think about how it can expand more than one individuals job in the company even should they not gain the actual "promotion". 

  • 26 Jul 2011 00:23
    Reply # 662543 on 659445
    Jun Kabigting wrote:QUESTION: "How can succession planning help an organization in its selection and staffing process?  Does your organization use succession planning?  If so, tell us how it has positively impacted your organization. Also, what challenges do you have in succession planning and how do you handle them?"

    TO DOs
    1. Participate in online forum discussion by Tuesday, July 26
    2. Feel free to critique or comment on your classmates' answers

    I think Jackie has mentioned almost everything I would like to say. 

    I am not sure the following case is appropriate for this discussion, but I would like to introduce it as I think it is an interesting example of succession planning.

    I have a friend working at one of the leading telecommunication companies in Japan.  He was the manager in R&D Group. He has wide experience and in-depth knowledge/accomplishment in his specialised field. The company told him that he needs to take the role of HR manager in the next 3 years if he plans to take more challenging position in R&D. He was not happy about the transfer as he wanted to pursue his career in R&D field. But he was advised that the present position of the R&D manager would be the highest position in his career if he did not assume the HR role.  It is a career development plan for him which the company provides, and he has to take it if he wants to be promoted and assume more challenging role for the company.   He accepted the transfer and assumed the position as HR Manager for R&D division, in charge of new employees selections, orientation and training, coaching, performance management and appraisal, employee relations, etc. It was a kind of job rotation training to broaden his understanding of the business and to test his abilities, but the company has selected him as a high potential employee and has been preparing him for advancement or promotion into more challenging roles. After 3 years of his contribution as HR manager, he was back and promoted in his own specialised field, as Senior Manager for R&D Division.  There was an another story at the back.  The company told him to find his successor as HR manager internally and give the one training and hand over the duties.  Until he finds the right person as his successor, he cannot move to the next step.  So, he had to identify the high potential internal candidates, select the right one, advise the career plan for the company, and conduct a smooth transition of the HR role.  I thought it was too much for one person to handle the whole process, but after those 3 years he looks very happy and confident in his career.

    Although I don't have experience in managing effective succession planning, the term "Succession Planning" has always comes up in the agenda in management meetings or HR meetings.  The sccession planning is no longer an option but a must for companies to be prepared for expansion, the loss of a key employee, filling a new, needed job, employee promotions, and organizational redesign for opportunites.  Succession planning builds bench strength for organizations.


  • 26 Jul 2011 12:30
    Reply # 663068 on 659445
    Sorry that I'm late to the discussion, it seems that some great posts have already been made!

    My organization has succession management plans as well, although I don't personally handle them.  As such, I can't comment too closely on how we do it. (a disadvantage of working in a training related agency; although I work in HR, I don't actually work in _our_ HR.  It gets confusing)

    I found Matthew's situation to be interesting, in that managing expectations has to be a key part of succession planning.  Obviously, the teachers who had quit either found that their new training gave them better opportunities elsewhere, or it is also possible that, given a taste of the more managerial position, they weren't interested in the job. 
    For this reason I would think that one of the first steps before bringing anyone on-board for a succession management development program should be a thorough screening of career goals and motivations, as well as honest discussion of realistic expectations and possibilities.  Many people who have participated in a training program or are aware that they are being groomed to take over a leadership post can develop an over-inflated view of their abilities, and as such may be quick to head elsewhere if they see better opportunities.  In many cases this may be a result of not realizing that knowledge and training are not replacements for actual experience, which can only come with practice. 

    Jackie's point about having to take the easy way out and contact a recruiter is, I think, very common in many organizations.  The most likely reason, to me, is that most organizations are treating succession planning as a very formal procedure, and even if an internal training system is being implemented the participants are specifically being identified to fill specific roles.

    • For example: Bob gets hit by a bus; Steve is Bob's designated replacement.  If Steve is not ready, then the company has to call a recruiter.  Steve, meanwhile, realizes that the new hire will likely stay for several years, which limits his chances of advancement until then, so begins to look for a new job.  (or hopes the new guy gets hit by a bus as well)

    Had the organization been conducting succession planning more flexibly, building up bench strength as Jackie had mentioned, then they could have had 3 or four candidates available for Bob's position, or at least a few who would have been suitable for sharing some of Bob's duties until they had developed the experience to handle it alone.  The organization could treat succession management not as a straight-line chart, but rather as a method of developing a pool of candidates ready to assume new responsibilities.    Ensuring that participants were aware that the company was actively developing them, even when new positions were not yet available, would decrease their likelihood of leaving if they were overlooked for an opportunity.  This would also keep them actively working on their leadership skills, which would benefit the organization as a whole.   In this fashion a clear, well designed succession plan could ensure a suitable pool of talent, increase organizational capability and employee engagement, and decrease turnover as well as recruitment costs. 
    For that all to work top management needs to be involved and plenty of feedback and support needs to be given, not just the HR department or even individual line managers.  It's a complex task, but I think it's rewarding even for small or mid-sized organizations.
  • 26 Jul 2011 13:18
    Reply # 663075 on 659445
    Matthew Ferguson
    I think Mayumi's story about the R and D manager is very interesting as an example of succession planning working well. It does seem that in this case the manager involved was quite resistant to the process and it seems that the company was rolling the dice a little. It seems that there was a fifty fifty chance that the manager might take himself elsewhere which could have left the company in a fix. This re-emphasizes the need to create a talent pool and also to screen and approach people in the right way. 

    Of course the flip side of this is that you are spending more money on training. Having never been in a company which used recruiters or formal training programs I am not sure how the costs work out. Would there be times when it is actually effectively cheaper to use the recruiters? Of course there are other costs such as turnover and the hidden costs such as morale. What other costs should we be offsetting against this. Anyone?

    I think Ryan raises some very important points about the difference between knowledge and experience or we might re-phrase that as the ability to implement those skills. This does suggest that multiple approaches, a combination of training, job stretching and where meaningful (as in Mayumi's colleagues case) job rotation would be far more effective both for assessment (both by the employee to help them choose their career path and by the employer) and also to give them that practical "doing experience" that can totally change our take on knowledge gained. 

    It also seems to me that close attention needs to be paid to career planning but to steal Ryan's comment this must not be entirely linear. People being aware that there are multiple routes for them to grow will also help diffuse that sense of being "passed over".

Share this page:



---Media Partners---
WSJ Asia Logo.jpg



© 2007-2015. The Japan HR Society (JHRS). All Rights Reserved.  c/o HR Central K.K. (The JHRS Secretariat), 3-29-2-712, Kamikodanaka, Nakahara-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa-ken 211-0053 JAPAN | Tel: +81(0)50-3394-0198 | Fax: +81(0)3-6745-9292 | Email Us. | Read our Privacy Policy.
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software