Winning in the Workplace: Succession Planning – Why Do We Need a New Mindset?

By Lelia Lim, Managing Partner, Asia Pacific, Lim-Loges & Masters

We operate in a world where digital transformation is changing the competitive landscape at warped speed. To survive and thrive in this ever-evolving business environment, companies need to build and enhance their competency and innovation capabilities. And with this in mind, it’s more vital than ever for organisations to employ and retain the right, high-performing talent and rethink their mindset and approach to their succession planning strategy.

Although it has long been a part of every HR practitioners thinking, the pandemic pushed succession planning to the back seat, with companies compelled to operate purely in survival mode. However, what COVID has taught us, even more than ever, is that to remain competitive, companies must reprioritise their need for succession planning and keep identifying and developing people to become future leaders.

Many organisations that previously flourished before COVID are now being forced to rethink how they operate, change the process dynamics, identify weak spots and find ways to improve them. It involves them regularly reevaluating, recalibrating and reassessing their business models, leadership structures and practices, which all impact their workforce needs. This in turn is massively influencing the overall capability requirements of their employees.

To navigate the rapid speed of ongoing disruption and transition in today’s world, companies must ensure that their workforce has the core competencies required to successfully support change now and in the future.

Now is the time for organisations to re-focus on their future leaders’ growth and development, leverage their current talent, and continue succession planning before their key employees leave to feel more valued elsewhere. And to do this requires a new mindset.

However, companies need a mindset that doesn’t just focus on succession planning in isolation. Leaders need to stop thinking that effective succession planning is just about replacement, but as a larger bespoke framework that includes enhancing employee engagement and developing skills to renew the talent-to-strategy pipeline. Therefore, if leaders want to establish effective succession planning, they need to include these aspects.

Having engaged employees who can improve and develop themselves and take advantage of career growth opportunities will help them not only personally, but also drive them to achieve the organisation’s goals. So basically, increased employee engagement and proper development lead to enhanced profitability, improved organisational growth and performance, and better retention of key employees. These all support a robust succession strategy.

Leaders also need to bear in mind that proper development can take months and even years. It’s not something that can be implemented immediately to solve a leadership void. This means that succession planning and leadership development initiatives must be linked to manage the leadership talent and top performers within an organisation.

The importance of an organisation nurturing its top performers cannot be underestimated – they contribute hugely to a company’s success. According to a recent McKinsey survey, high performers are 800% more productive than low performers in complex occupations. However, although they’re driving a lot of the success, they’re also at increased risk for burnout and being overworked. Their achievements needs to be supported by management and this should be achieved by also incorporating this aspect into the strategy.

For organisations to be successful in today’s world, they must be more agile, responsive, and adept at talent management with a new set of leadership imperatives. And part of enabling this is by having a solid succession strategy.

Leaders making talent decisions around succession planning must:

  • Ask what roles are most critical for business longevity
  • Assess where people fit the future of the organisation
  • Create a path for the future that spurs personal growth, ensures retention and helps the business remain agile and able to sustain the quality of leadership needed for success
  • Be realistic about people’s capability, engagement and availability
  • Think of key business scenarios before deciding on the right talent to employ
  • Accept that talent risks will have to be taken

With all this in mind, organisations and leaders can then ensure that any new policies, practices, or processes reinforce the kind of leadership culture they want to model. And that these initiatives go to enable, not disable, their top talent.

The success of succession planning is determined by the impact and support it has on employees in terms of development, retention, and attainment of goals and how it keeps the succession moving forward into the future without being derailed or disrupted by day-to-day hassles and unforeseen events. 

With uncertainty a constant in the new normal, leaders must adopt a new mindset to succession planning that allows them to successfully navigate through the ever-changing talent challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

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