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Micah Fairchild Aligning Succession Strategy with Succession Management Software

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 By Micah Fairchild

3 Steps to Successful Alignment of Succession Management Software and Strategy

Businesses are facing a worrying gap in the supply of talent, and the situation appears to be getting worse. In fact, a recent global survey by Manpower Group revealed that 33+% of companies are having difficulties filling positions because of a lack of talent – the highest level in four years. In the U.S. especially, the situation has become severe, and according to recent research from Deloitte, 66+% of companies are suffering skill shortages from their employees. Of those companies included in the Deloitte study, a further 56% of the survey respondents expect the skills gaps "to worsen over the next 3 to 5 years as a wave of retirement hits the US workforce".

While this mass exodus has been predicted for some time, the economic downturn has stalled the process, resulting in an ever-increasing number of potential but not yet actual retirements. However, those numbers are only part of the story. Specifically, over the next 5 years, a further 5% decline in the 35-44 year old demographic group is expected (thanks to the relatively small size of Generation X)—a decrease that means there will be less candidates able to fill top and middle management posts soon to be vacated by retirees. In short, over the coming years, demand will out-strip supply in the area of leadership talent and nearly all industry sectors are expected to be affected. In light of all these facts, it is surprising then to hear research out of Cutting Edge Information that indicates "most companies either do not have a succession plan or do not update it regularly".

An effective succession management software system can lead the way in dealing with (and in some cases preparing for) these shortages, but is only as helpful as an organization's strategic planning process is. Specifically, succession management software can help ensure that a business has an ongoing supply of talent to lead the business in the future, but relies on the efforts that an organization undertakes in order for its objectives to be met—meaning an alignment is needed between what the organization needs to accomplish and what the software's functionalities enable. What follows then, are the steps that organizations need to take to ensure that strategy and technology sync up.

Succession Management Software Alignment Step #1: Assess Bench Strength

The Caliper Model of succession planning suggests that after having identified the ideal leadership characteristics in your business, the next step in succession planning is the "identification of talent and assessment of bench strength". In short, organizations need to know who on their team has the knowledge, skill, and ability to take over if the need arises. To aid in this process, most robust succession management applications include an employee skills database which will enable your business to efficiently capture and index talent data in an easily search-able way. For example, managers can search the inventory to locate specific skills, certifications, licenses, experience, previous roles, and much more. Further, the typical succession management application will allow drill down so that the search can be segmented into departments, locations, job types, or geographies.

Succession Management Software Alignment Step #2: Automate Identification

Following on the heels of bench strength assessment, automatically identifying "high-potentials" (while certainly one of the more sophisticated and workflow-oriented functions of succession management software) is incredibly important to the overall achievement of strategic succession goals. Specifically, by co-relating the employee inventory with your ideal leadership competencies, succession software can be tasked to automatically identify those top employees within the business—allowing the organization to ramp up development plans and stretch assignments in order to prepare those employees for promotion. Aside from the entirely internal placement of the right individuals into the right positions, this functionality also minimizes your "time to hire" cadre of metrics—boosting engagement and shortening the time it takes for employees to be fully-functioning contributors on the job.

As part of this identification, an equally powerful (and necessary) automation feature that should be tapped into is that of "Organizational Charting"—a function which enables the business to map out company structures and hierarchies. The benefit here is that these charts are interactive and linked to the employee inventory—effectively meaning that the system will be able to highlight specific successors; make the talent pipeline (or lack thereof) abundantly clear; and enable targeted correction plans to stake place.

Succession Management Software Alignment Step #3: Analyze the Market

As much as the planning process can provide though, it's important that organization remain cognizant of the external trends and issues that are happening outside their door. Indeed, as research from Cutting Edge suggests, "Companies must change their succession plans organically to meet changing market demands". The plug in here to succession management software (though typically only seen in Best-of-Breed applications) is the capability to perform "what if" scenario planning—a process that can indicate how succession planning and developmental activity might need to change if external social, economic, or legislative factors alter. The huge upside to this step is that it allows organizations to be able to operate according to a pre-determined outlook while simultaneously building contingency plans.

Final Thoughts on Initial Succession Management Steps

Talent shortages (and the ensuing talent war) are undoubtedly upon us. And a confluence of factors (from economic to social) will in all likelihood make the process for sourcing, attracting, and retaining talent an increasingly difficult task. Succession planning and management software can help organizations prepare for these shortages by highlighting the proficiencies and deficiencies of their current workforce; but it should be noted that key steps must be taken by the organization in order for that technology's functionality to truly pay off. End

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By co-relating the employee inventory with your ideal leadership competencies, succession software can be tasked to automatically identify those top employees within the business—allowing the organization to ramp up development plans and stretch assignments in order to prepare those employees for promotion."


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