We are often asked by our clients to help them anticipate common mistakes, obstacles or roadblocks when implementing a succession planning process. Planning ahead not only enables clients to mitigate these obstacles butchallenges 231x299 resized 600 also allows for thorough contingency planning should those obstacles arise.

Some of the most common roadblocks/obstacles when implementing a succession planning process include:

  • Lack of top management support
  • Agreeing on the criteria for the talent assessment
  • Lack of a talent assessment database or system from which to generate necessary reporting

Lack of Top Management Support

Gaining top management support has become less of an issue within the last several years. As more and more organizations experience reductions, there is an increased anxiety over having the right talent in the right place at the right time. In many of our client organizations this has resulted in board mandates for comprehensive succession planning/succession management processes (thereby ensuring a continuous “leadership pipeline” to support the organization’s future needs).

While gaining management support may not be the issue it once was, maintaining that support is still a common roadblock for Human Resources. Once the succession planning process takes off it is important to keep these executives engaged. Soliciting their opinions on candidates surfaced as high-potentials, having them serve as mentors for brief engagements and gaining their continuous buy-in by providing valuable talent reports post-assessment can help to solidify that support year after year.

Agreeing On Criteria for Talent Assessment

The Talent Assessment criteria are a critical piece of the succession planning process and form the foundation for talent reporting. However, too often these criteria are difficult to define as functional leaders tend to have different expectations/needs and getting agreement on what should comprise the assessment can be challenging. This can unfortunately cause a significant delay in the overall project which not only jeopardizes the ability to better utilize leaders when they are needed most but also risks tempering the momentum and enthusiasm that has been built around the project.

We recommend that our clients “cast a wide net” when it comes to defining the talent assessment criteria and ask questions about many different types of experiences and functional skills. If the talent assessment collects information on multiple functional areas, it is then possible to surface talent in one particular function that may happen to have experience and expertise in another. This broadens the application of the succession planning process and provides all functional leaders with talent data that can support their staffing needs.

Lack of a Talent Assessment Database

We frequently hear clients share their frustration over the time and effort involved in attempting to collect succession planning data from some type of Excel or Access document. The number of “person hours” spent on this type of succession management process generally greatly outweighs the cost of working with a vendor to automate the process. Once a process involves more than 15-20 people, it quickly becomes unwieldy and difficult to manage manually. Talent Management software solutions have evolved considerably in the last 5 years, so the question is less whether or not to automate and more a decision about which vendor is best suited to meet the organization's particular needs. Selecting a Talent Management vendor with not only the flexibility to accommodate specific talent assessment criteria but also the expertise to advise along the way will ensure these common roadblocks and obstacles are avoided and facilitate a successful “leadership pipeline” to best utilize talent in the upcoming years.   

For more information on how to get started with your succession planning initiative, read my recent article titled "Make the First Move in Succession Planning."