A well planned and executed succession process plan is one of the
key elements to assuring diversity in your organization. As too
often seen in a number of companies, succession planning does not
represent the diversity of global markets, customers, or the
employee population. For example, women and professionals of color
may appear in a succession plan as "ready in three to five years,"
but they seldom advance to the "ready now" status in a plan.
Succession Plans Kept Secret
A survey conducted by Novations/J. Howard & Associates found
45.8 percent of companies don't share with executives whether they
are included in the plan. For many companies, succession planning
is a closed process. Respondents cited several reasons for this
secrecy. Some do not want to make an implied promise, while others
do not want to harm the morale of those not included in the plan.
Others want to watch to see how the executives will develop.
Among the study's other findings:
- most employers (60.9 percent) do not encourage executives to
nominate themselves for inclusion in the succession plan most
organizations (47.8 percent) do not permit self nomination
- few employees (16.7 percent) make the criteria for inclusion on
their succession plan known throughout the organization
- about 1/5 (22.7 percent) of the respondents indicated that
their companies always complement their succession plans with
development programs so designated executives are prepared to move
up within a certain time frame.
The corporate secrecy associated with succession planning has its
down side. If employers truly seek to develop their leaders,
criteria for advancement - what the necessary qualities, skills,
and experiences are - must be made clear.
Opening Up the Succession Process
To retain and develop top talent, companies need to understand that
succession planning must be an open process in order to be
successful. Senior management needs to be keenly aware of their
reactions to differences and to broaden the pool of people from
which they select.
Managers also need to be conscious of their own biases, especially
the tendency to support those most like themselves. They must look
at their people objectively, getting to know them as individuals.
In addition, companies should encourage and reward learning. It
must be made clear that individuals are valued on the basis of
their willingness to engage in continuous learning and improvement,
not on the basis of their membership in any "favored" group.
Personal responsibility is the next step to build a diverse
succession plan - individuals within an organization must take
ownership of their own development. The company should do whatever
it can to help grow the confidence of all employees for example, by
providing regular feedback and coaching to help refine employees'
efforts and build their capabilities. Individuals need to be
encouraged to focus on results and competency development not just
on hard work - effective effort on their part is the key to career
The final component of a succession plan is to develop a "career
roadmap," which spells out the needed competencies for each
individual within a succession plan and provides a detailed road
map about how to develop the needed competencies. Using this map,
in conjunction with the organization's succession plan, company
leaders can focus on results and outcomes in a more objective
manner. This model will help leaders more accurately assess
people's talents and skills.