If you don’t know your most critical talent, how can succession planning work effectively?

04 Feb 2020

If you don’t know your most critical talent, how can succession planning work effectively?

Your most valuable roles might not be in the places you normally expect in the organisational hierarchy and that matters in effective succession planning.

There are two ways of looking at talent and the value it brings to your organisation.

A traditional succession approach focuses on a hierarchical view. This assumes that the most valuable roles are in the ‘top team’. In fact, as business and operational models are disrupted, new roles adding critical value are dispersed at other levels.

In contrast, a value-based approach looks for critical roles - those at lower levels that carry significantly more weight from a succession perspective, due to their value to the organisation.

McKinsey found this value-based way of looking at (and developing) talent was twice as likely to outperform competitors using the traditional approach, measured on total returns to shareholders.

Therefore, basing succession on this new landscape will be vital.

Do you recognise these five critical roles?

  1. Regulatory: these roles have the ability to sustain key aspects of your licence to operate
  2. Critical growth: roles in fast-growing business units where continued scale-up is key to achieving your business strategy
  3. Technical/product, scientific or engineering: roles in business units where sustaining development momentum has a disproportionate impact on new products and services, and/or affect the growth of other divisions
  4. Reputational: roles where a loss of continuity may damage key account relationships, market reputation or disrupt knowledge and business networks
  5. Transformational: those challenging programme leadership roles built on strong stakeholder relationships and tacit knowledge built from the experience of the corporate culture and navigating complex organisational dynamics

Mediocre succession hurts

The impact of a mediocre approach to succession planning is often amplified by a corresponding gain for a competitor business.

These high value-creating positions should be identified at the outset of any active succession approach. And it requires active input from the CFO and strategy teams to add a perspective on accurately locating the high-value positions across your business.

Metrics to rely on

At Odgers Berndtson, our Leadership Assessment and Development team can help your organisations identify the high-value roles and make informed, metrics-based decisions.  

We apply a rigorous approach to defining the landscape, establishing the success profiles, assessing individuals for readiness and/or potential and defining a delivering customised development.

This coupled with deep experience, will ensure your executive selection, high-potential identification, and succession planning can be done with the utmost confidence.


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