In developing a succession plan, is it smart to inform successors that they are indeed, the successors?
There are a lot of pros/cons for informing successors of their status within an organization. Some argue that informing successors can lead to an increase in poaching of high potentials. Others argue that not informing successors can lead to anxiety. Some of the pros of informing successors include communicating openness, motivating employees to further develop themselves, and providing reason behind different development initiatives.
Yes I would share the information. However establish other points of review by the successor to the successful and thus their expectations of the points as the deadline, responsibilities, constraints to the plan of succession occurs, minimizing possible distortions on the plan. If you do not do this, the succession plan loses its credibility and would create a frustration to participants.
This paradox between commitment and frustration is separated by a thin barrier, which in over 70% of cases, ends in reduced performance and the successor to the loss in professionalism to the market.
Succession planning is about structures,functions and systems that have been put in place in an organization for continuity. Once these are clear any successor can easily fit in because there are clear operating procedures. earmarking an individual as a successor in an organization does not work well because in the event that the individual declines or is not available the organization becomes vulnerable.
Succession planning is no different from any other business planning process. It begins with knowing where you want to go and what's required to get there. The process has to be inclusive as it is important to ensure the identified successors map to the business capabilities needed in the future. However the motivation & retention aspects notwithstanding, this issue needs to be viewed within the larger context of the changing talent landscape and the fundamental problem employers are facing today- managing uncertainty - The fact that current hi-performing employees identified for succession may be just as footloose as the millennial generation complicates the talent management challenge for employers, because it means their internal supply of talent is not stable, reliable or predictable. Succession plan analytics can hopefully provide answers here in driving the process forward and ensure business relevance
Am guessing you have a few negative consequences that you're concerned may occur as a result of informing the potential successors of their future.
There will always be some ripple effects on announcing who the successor is. So how objective is the selection process? There's always going to be corporate politics with everyone adding their 2 bits and stabs. The stars or favourites are usually the first choice and hopefully not the 'there's nobody else but'- both of which can lead to some uneasiness for those who have to live with the choice on a daily basis. More importantly is the personality match- does the successor imbibe the company values and have the interpersonal skills to do the task as required? Sometimes the directive is we need someone to get the task done, to get this business unit up and prospering again- but despite that, who has the right balance of task and relationship skills to ensure they can sustain the work without burning too many bridges or morale?
Spotting a successor is the first hurdle- grooming them for the job is the second half. You can't really invest in coaching, training, shadowing and handing over of responsibilities to a person without giving them some hope or indication that they may be a potential successor. To not indicate so, would be overly cautious and protective for the wrong reasons, probably subjective. As you've mentioned above, letting them know is beneficial for the person and others.
Yes things could still go awry- they could be poached, they may have other aspirations, it could go to their head or there may be a fall out- but that's why we have a pipeline- its a continuous process.
I think there are more positive aspects informing the successor, there can be retention issue resolved, the successor will be motivated to foresee his career path in the organization, being an opportunist he/she may work hard to fulfill the required skill set to be a successor. Another thing which can neutralize the cons is that if the successor is informed to meet some KPIs before being eligible to become the lucky one or if there are more than one successor there could be competition and hard work behind to be successor.
Informing successors about your plan can be advantageous only if you are 100% certain about the potential (and integrity) of the 'chosen one'. There are some cons (as described above), but the pros outweigh those. The employee can be aware of his/her responsibilities and participate actively in the development process.
Succession planning includes the word "planning" , which requires not only a conversation that advises the successors, but a true plan for what will be required to effect the plan. If the successors are not informed, how can the plan be successfully determined?
If your succession plan doesn't include working with the successor to get them ready to step up it's not much of a plan, is it?
Not telling them also risks a misalignment between your plans for an individual and theirs which may not include progressing in your company or a time limit on how long that will stay if they don't see a clear pathway.
Top talent are top talent and they know it and know that they have options.
On many levels, you're dealing with human emotions, the business environment plus the lifeblood of the firm or company. If your building a "family" and trying to solve clients' problems why wouldn't you want everyone to feel wanted? Transparency is good; keeping valuable employees is tantamount to success. Your actual business success.
There are actually two activities here: one is succession planning in which you determine the degree a person is ready for movement within the organization and the second is leadership development. If a person is considered part of the future leadership, he or she needs to be prepared to meet that challenge otherwise their promotion will lead to failure. Being considered for leadership development hints at succession planning without stating it formally. However, springing a sudden promotion on someone without preparation is harmful to the organization and the individual.
Yes, it is important to inform the successors because it involves them . This will make the succession plan visible, at least at the senior positions. A development plan for each of the candidate (say two candidates) can then be made and agreed on. The plan can include: a mentoring process, a training plan, a performance objectives and a perform review process.
I have found that is it always best to be open and above board, especially with successors. If others are unhappy about it then they have two options (1) leave, or (2) embrace the successor and work toward a harmonious relationship.
A prospective successor must be apprised of the fact that he or she is being considered to assume a leadership role, even if this advance notice only provides you with their reaction and response. A succession plan requires psychological and educational preparation on the part of the successor under consideration. A reluctant or critically unprepared successor can destroy even the most well-constructed organization, given the opportunity.
There really should be two plans:
1) A long term strategic plan that deals with the generic strategy of management succession.
2) The relatively short term plan which names the successor. It is proper to name the successor in advance to allow:
a) The successor to accept and prepare to takeover while studying the current management strategies, structures, and operational plans;
b) The organization to prepare for a new boss;
c) the organization to accept the change management requirements dealing with a new boss and possibly a new management structure.
The stress of change is not necessarily a bad thing and can be used to motivate employees. It is appropriate that the organization allows for the employees to adapt to this change.
Take the reverse situation........would you want to be advised of being a new successor at the last moment? It is really bad form to do this! Being open and supportive is much more positive and constructive.
I would say definitely yes. As well as the reasons you mention, that person would need to be set up for the post and that might require training or mentoring or even an apprenticship activity. In addition, what would happen if you picked someone that:
Later turned out to be unsuitable?
Moved on to a competitor?
Refused or did not want to be a successor?
You would need the proviso to be able to change the successor originally selected.
This does not mean that one has to inform everyone else and their dog regarding the succession plan of course. Only those required to know.
The timing should be geared to how much time until the succession. With time things change.
It seems like the vast majority are on the side of informing high potentials and keeping them involved in the succession planning process, with a few exceptions The insights thus far have been very interesting. Thank you for all the responses!
The successor plan should be part of the make up of a business. It shows everyone that the business model is to move forward and with the times. Having individuals on a positive successors list should encourage that individual to put more efforts into their future and a better involvement. They are on the list because of their contributions that everyone has awareness. Anxiety can never eliminated with the business climate but can be minimized via transparency. If you checked with most companies and all employees within..... they could tell one the people that should be promoted based on performance.
I think timing is key. You want the person to know when the time is right. For example, you don't want them to know too early cause then they'll abuse that information. So I can't really give an exact answer, but from experience, it depends on the person.
Let us start with who is your client?
Why do or are they creating a succession plan in the first case (beyond the obvious answer)?
A succession plan is like a disaster plan good to have and know where it is bad to discuss every day or have it hanging over everyone's head. Therefore once the plan has been developed and everyone has had at least five days to add sober second thought sit them down and ask them what do they think they would gain be disclosing the plan at this point. In a way it is like a will for the company and very few people know or need to know what is in the will until after a death makes it necessary to disclose.
Wayne Spragge Ph.D., C., / Org. Psych