04 November 2015

Welcome to the Leaders of the Tomorrow: developing a succession plan to ensure success

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When I first joined the corporate world there were several things that were a given. Firstly, it would take time to get anywhere, you had to prove yourself worthy of greater things. Working in the call centre industry the standard time to prove yourself worthy was two years.

It was extremely rare for anyone to get anywhere without two years on the ground. As time progressed, that belief changed and the first time I noticed it was when I was working at American Express, where after only a couple of months I was put into the role of on-floor mentor for the new training groups. It was my job to be on hand, to walk the area where the new starters were taking their first calls, and to answer any product questions that arose the staff couldn’t find an answer to.

Today the idea of slogging it out for two years as an entry level employee is a rarity. High numbers of University graduates, faster turn around and the impacts of a disruptive business environment can see staff moving up the ladder at what appears to be lightning speed.

But how do organisations ensure the “fast-track,” is sustainable, supporting of the organisations long-term vision, and not a knee jerk reaction to the thought of having to replace the staff member in that role for the third time in a year.

Statistically, the era of a “job for life,” is long gone. My father worked in the public service for over 40 years. Today’s economic conditions ensure that for workers now, it is likely never to happen again.

While high staff turnover is nothing new, the speed with which people move on can play havoc for the long-term success of your business. The old saying “The best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry,” comes to mind.

In viewing succession planning, there are several key concepts you need to keep in mind to ensure that your plans go less awry than feared. Understanding the purpose behind succession planning is only the first step towards developing a plan that goes any way towards a successful outcome.

At its most basic, succession planning is designed to create a match between the organisations future needs and the aspirations of the individual employee. The question today for organisational leaders is, how do you plan for the future when the business world is changing around us daily?

Creating a dedicated succession management team with a long term outlook is a vital resource in anticipating the future needs of the company, and helps to find, assess, develop and monitor the human capital needed to ensure the company’s long term success.

Best-practice succession management:

  • Succession planning cannot be done in isolation, but needs to be incorporated as an integral corporate process by exhibiting a link between succession planning and overall business strategy.
  • Bring together the two facets of successful succession planning management. While the HR department is usually responsible for the tools and processes needed to bring about a successful plan, it is the business or line unit managers who are responsible for the “deliverables,” and bring about the final outcome.
  • Use technology to its best advantage. Technology facilitates the process by making it shorter, simpler and more flexible.
  • The importance of a cyclical, continuous identification process to focus on future leaders cannot be underestimated. What may have worked before may not be as successful in today’s rapidly changing business environment. Adapt, monitor and adjust should be the keywords for successful succession planning management.
  • Clearly define the core set of leadership and succession management competencies to ensure complete understanding of the goals and expected outcomes.
  • Keep the process simple. The more complicated a program is, the less likely your company is to obtain the desired outcome.
  • Align succession planning within the overall business strategy. The system needs to support and reinforce the corporate goals and objectives if it is to attract the buy-in of the company’s line managers and business heads.
  • Senior level support is a must. To ensure best practice succession management your top level managers need to be seen to endorse and support the program. Active engagement from the top level management team lends the plan the importance it needs to be successfully achieved.
Akolade is pleased to bring you it's Developing Future Leaders event, coming to Sydney December 1 - 3 at the Radisson Blu, Sydney. For further information or to check out our panel of expert leaders, click here.




Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

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