Managing Talent Gaps: How to Create a Succession Plan That Works

by Regan McPhee 2. February 2011 17:32

Age. We all do it. First we’re young and then, sometimes without realizing it, we get old. And if our businesses have an employee population that gets old without our realizing it, we’re going to be left with talent gaps that could, potentially, ruin us.


While I realize that sounds rather alarmist in nature, it is actually true. Failing to have a workable succession plan for senior positions within our organizations can, according to, “undermine an organization’s effectiveness and sustainability.”


And the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the World Federation of Personnel Management Associations (WFPMA) conducted a 2007 study that determined that by 2015, or earlier, over 78 per cent of Canadian companies “will be offering flexible employment options to attract or retain semi-retired or retired employees.”


Yet creating a succession plan to ensure the senior positions vacated by these retiring employees are filled by qualified candidates is not that difficult. Time consuming, yes. Requiring a commitment from senior management, yes. But not that difficult.


The Tata Group, the largest conglomerate in India with 114 companies and subsidiaries and 280,000 employees as of July 2007, develops their potential succession candidates using the following formula:


10% training courses + 20% interaction with people + 70% challenging jobs


This obviously successful formula echoes the four succession strategy groups listed in 2005 by the US Office of Personnel Management at, which are:




  1. Development and Learning Strategies


Once you have determined which employees are potential candidates for succession, it is important to increase the scope of their current position. It’s also important to include these individuals in projects that require them to learn new skills.


Another key to developing succession candidates is to involve them in formal educational and leadership training courses, as well as giving them opportunities to observe senior leaders during strategic meetings and significant organizational actions.


  1. Feedback Strategies


The use of assessments during succession planning can be extremely helpful. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, DISC and 360 are just some of the tools that can be used to help candidates, and the organization, better understand the core competencies of each individual candidate.


Coaches and mentors are vital to guaranteeing a succession plan, and the candidates chosen to be a part of it, is successful. They enable a candidate to learn, firsthand and through continuous appraisal, where and how they need to improve in order to move up in the company and be effective when they get there.


  1. Retention Strategies

        Choosing potential succession candidates tends to be easy when you compare it to actually retaining the candidates after they have been

        chosen. In order to keep top-performers, it is absolutely necessary to have retention bonuses and incentives, as well as recognition systems

        (appropriate to the needs and motivators of each employee) in place.


Another way to ensure you retain your top-performers is to develop work-life balance programs, such as telecommuting, childcare, fitness programs and shared or alternative work schedules.


  1. Recruitment Strategies

Recruitment strategies are also an important part of successful succession planning, as many times appropriate succession candidates can’t be found within the organization.


To guarantee your company hires the most talented individuals available establish recruitment bonuses and incentives. Another way of guaranteeing you bring in the top talent is to offer relocation bonuses and accurate branding of your company.


So while the media may have us believing we can stop the aging process, the sad fact is we’re all going to age no matter how hard we try to stop it. And that means our senior employees are, some day, going to retire whether we’re ready for it or not.


Therefore save yourselves, and your company, a lot of headaches and create a workable succession plan now. Not only will your organization be more effective, you may also slow your own aging-process down by avoiding the stress of trying to find quick replacements for senior managers who retire ‘out of the blue’.



HR | human resources | talent management

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