Succession planning is a process for identifying and developing internal people with the potential to fill key business leadership positions in the company. Succession planning increases the availability of experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume these roles as they become available. Taken narrowly, “replacement planning” for key roles is the heart of succession planning. Effective succession or talent-pool management concerns itself with building a series of feeder groups up and down the entire leadership pipeline or progression (Charan, Drotter, Noel, 2001).
Fundamental to the succession-management process is an underlying philosophy that argues that top talent in the corporation must be managed for the greater good of the enterprise. Merck and other companies argue that a “talent mindset” must be part of the leadership culture for these practices to be effective.
Process and practices
Companies devise elaborate models to characterize their succession and development practices. Most reflect a cyclical series of activities that include these fundamentals:
- Identify key roles for succession or replacement planning
- Define the competencies and motivational profile required to undertake those roles
- Assess people against these criteria – with a future orientation
- Identify pools of talent that could potentially fill and perform highly in key roles
- Develop employees to be ready for advancement into key roles – primarily through the right set of experiences.