TTT – Transparency in Succession Planning

These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Talent Think Tank (TTT) held on Tuesday 29th May 2012 at BNY Mellon’s Head Office, titled ‘The Transparency of Talent Programmes and Succession Planning and the Impact on People’. 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 |

Succession planning is well established as an integral ‘process’ within HR to help identify, develop and maintain the right talent within an organisation, and to mitigate future risk. The problem with this process is that it is the organisation who decides what their talent needs to be, and subsequently who is deemed to be ‘talent’ within this context. This raises two big questions;

  1. What talent do you need within your organisation in order to do succession planning
  2. How transparent and honest will your organisation be with sharing information around who is ‘talent’

At our recent Talent Think Tank event, we soon realised that we could not grapple with the second question without an answer to the first. Here are the highlights of our discussion in response to these questions raised about succession planning and its transparency.


Before you do anything start with why… Why do you need succession planning, what is the intent and purpose? What you do and how you do it comes second to this. This will enable you to have greater clarity and honesty with your staff if this is made clear.


The view of what great looks like and subsequent succession planning MUST be aligned to the strategy of the business. As a result, the look and feel of any succession plan will be a different animal from one organisation to the next, depending on the needs and priorities of that organisation. Be clear on what this looks and feels like for your organisation. The upfront investment in this is critical to ensure you are developing and keeping the right talent.

Be Agile

Often succession planning is discussed as if it exists as a fixed state; person A will move up to replace person B, and person B can move across to replace person E… However, things change! As an organisation, are you really addressing the changing needs of the individual over time, and how have you adapted your succession planning with the changing needs of the business? With this in mind, succession planning needs to be agile and constantly evolving, which requires continuous conversations and energy to be invested.

What does potential mean to you?

In understanding what great needs to look like, it will help you to consider what potential means specifically to your organisation. You can understand this by looking at capability of what they can do now, and their intrinsic profile on what they value and are motivated by to understand their ‘fit’ compared with this view of what great looks like. This can be different for different roles within the same organisation.

Who is talent?

Everyone! The question you need to be asking is what investment you make with where people ‘fit’ in to your idea of what great looks like. Do you focus on the high potentials or the mighty middle? This depends on your business aims.

Avoid Labels

Talent Management and succession planning can denote different things to different people. It is a word we apply to a process which ultimately feels cold, and well, processy. Human beings are social and will not connect with this label. Focus your efforts on avoiding these assumptions and instead talk about the development of your employees, and about their ‘fit’ within the company or for different roles. Avoid the word assessment at all costs! It sounds too clinical, and therefore threatening!


We are living in times where individuals typically move jobs every two-three years, something organisations are still adjusting to. The younger generations today are coming in to the working world with different expectations and attitudes, which may not align with the typical approach taken to succession planning. Have you considered the timescales and set up of your succession planning around this audience and are we trying to sell to an audience that will inevitably leave? This leads us on to engagement…


Succession planning is not a one-way activity – there are two parties involved, so how is your organisation engaging and being open with its talent to keep and develop them? If you establish the right intent, and are focused on development rather than assessment, the ongoing conversations and honesty on how your employees play a role to contribute to the business will be much easier, as your employees will start to feel involved, clear on where they stand, and valued. Most people today are looking for the ‘what’s in it for me’ deal – being open about development opportunities and creating a coaching culture will be a huge asset to keeping the best people.

If your organisation can establish answers and clarity over these key areas, the success of your succession planning will be more certain. Within our own reflections, we soon realised we had only touched the surface of this topic. We still had questions regarding the role of HR and the manager in selecting talent, the formulation of return on investment, and what initiatives can look like once the talent and the strategy have been identified. No doubt these topics will make an appearance at our future Talent Think Tanks..!

Until next time… That’s all for now folks!

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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One Response to “TTT – Transparency in Succession Planning”

  1. Tom

    Perfect summary on what was discussed at the meeting. Thanks for pulling it together and sharing. Tom


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