TTT – Desperately Seeking Succession Planning

These are the thoughts and takeaways from the Talent Think Tank (TTT) held on Wednesday 13th June 2012 hosted by Unilever, titled ‘Desperately Seeking Succession Planning’. The following summary has been written by our TTT partners, The Chemistry group, and reflects the discussion held amongst senior HR and Talent professionals from leading UK and international businesses.

For more information on the group, or to discuss membership, please contact Jeremy on 0207 88 444 |

Last week the Talent Think Tank tackled the ever present topic of succession planning to understand how other organisations are managing it, to talk through results and to reflect on common pitfalls.

The big question posed was whether organisations are spending  a disproportionate amount of money on Executive Assessment & Development to little or no effect on organisational performance? As a group of senior HR professionals we reflected, debated, questioned and proposed our thoughts, ideas,  experience, and solutions to this big question.

Why bother?

A big challenge that many organisations are facing concerns engaging senior stakeholders and leaders of the business around why they should invest in succession planning and ‘talent programmes.’ What is the value of this ‘fluffy’ stuff and how can you measure the return on this investment?

The answer lies in firstly understanding the purpose and strategy of the business, and realising that you need great people in order to deliver on this and to move beyond ‘surviving’ towards high performance. If you need great people then you need to identify what ‘great’ looks like for your specific organisation. Starting with this premise is a first step to engaging leaders, as they need to be engaged. It also ensures that as an organisation you are not wasting money on activities that do not add value.

What Great Looks Like

Defining what great looks like will provide your organisation with greater meaning and direction to derive a useful and practical succession plan. It will help you to define what capabilities you need, and what ‘potential’ looks like. The Chemistry Group suggested taking a holistic view of this; in that performance and capability is not enough to consider alone, as you need to consider what your people need to value and be driven to do. Succession planning is a two way conversation, and defining these values and motivations will be important to understanding potential. Running workshops with senior stakeholders is a great way of getting a view of this, and to gain engagement.

The Agile Organisation

Increasingly, Talent Think Tank discussions are highilghting the evolving and changing context that business exist within today. Economies in developming countries are growing, and the movement in techonology is meaning that information is more accessible than ever before. What does this mean for succession planning? We discussed:

  1. How to build or recruit talent in these emerging countries
  2. Transparency – we often talk about internal transparency of succession planning, but organisations need to start considering their global transparency. How does the rest of the world view it? With websites such as Glassdoor ( taking an inside look at companies, and with the presence of social media, there is a big question around what ‘experience’ are you creating
  3. Things change – the world is changing, roles are changing, and people will naturally change over time. This has implications to roles and talent pools, and the conversations you will have around development
  4. Facilitating and broadening opportunities – are we trying to fit square pegs into round holes? Can we inject more flexibility into roles and review the roles we are recruiting in to? If the world has moved on, then how has the role changed?

Managers & Meaningful Conversations

We debated the challenge around equipping managers to spot talent and to have meaningful development conversations. Firstly, you need to be clear on what conversations and dialogue you want (this is where knowing what great looks like helps). Secondly, what practical tools are in place to support managers with this. We shared ideas around what has worked previously and what works to prepare managers to increase ‘readiness’ of their team through development plans.

Embedding succession planning

Once these factors have been agreed, it is a case of creating a structure and process to integrate and embed it. Too often, organisations start with the process without tackling the why and the bigger picture. Doing it this way round will then enable you to develop talent, not just develop a plan.

Don’t forget the full package

Finally, we finished with a reflection on the fact that we need to be clear on what the ‘full’ package of succession planning is – from identifying talent to developing and retaining talent, and moving from knowing it to doing it effectively.

What became clear was that there are so many factors that organisations are grappling with today around succession planning, and for some, they are at the start of the journey, whereas others are well on their way to evolve and improve the way they develop and retain great people. The most important thing however is that it is on the agenda, and that we are working towards ensuring succession planning does add value by driving high performance.

Oasis HR

Written by , Network Driven HR Recruitment

Oasis HR is a multi-award winning HR Recruitment Agency based in London that delivers Contingency and Search services within the Human Resource and Business Change Markets. Our client base encompasses all industry sectors and we have a proven track record of delivering permanent, interim and temporary professionals at all levels across all HR disciplines. From a £20k HR Administrator to a £200k HR Director, Oasis HR is well placed to identify, approach and secure the best available talent in the market

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