A system that addresses capability gaps in critical roles by implementing and maintaining processes that identify, develop, deploy and retain quality people. Succession management optimises the fit between the strategy of the institution and the abilities of its people. When world-class it is about treating talent as a pipeline, not a tap.
The challenges facing HEIs are becoming bigger and more complex and require a continuous pipeline of leaders who can bring about the changes needed for sustained performance. Ask yourself:
‘Bench strength’ is a term used to measure the difference between the number of critical leadership roles in your institution and the number of employees who demonstrate the required level of performance for these roles. Good practice suggests that you should have at least two ‘ready now’ candidates for every critical role. Unfortunately the demand for leadership talent far outstrips the supply.
There is talent out there and competent organisations are adept at hiring and firing good people. Great organisations however are skilled at developing and deploying talent in ways that continuously grow their experience, stretch their abilities and enable their achievements. Promoting people from within is good for morale and essential to a positive institutional culture. And a grow-your-own strategy is also much less expensive than a policy of searching for the best external candidates. Research by the Corporate Leadership Council indicates that failure rates for newly recruited senior managers can be as high as 50%.
Without a systematic approach to identifying and developing future senior managers many talented people will leave the institution or fail to develop the breadth of capabilities needed for them to fulfil their potential. Succession management is a quality and a quantity issue.
Put simply there are three things that you have to do:
Ensuring the institution has the capability it needs to deliver its strategy is the responsibility of the vice-chancellor and SMT. Senior leaders make succession management and leadership development a top priority and pay attention to it. They don’t just advocate it; they literally roll up their sleeves and personally take an active role in identifying and developing talent.
HR’s role is to facilitate the succession management process, developing aligned frameworks and simple tools that enable the identification, selection and development of the institution’s high-potential people. A key role is to provide information that will enable rigorous decisions to be made about talent.
Organisations with effective succession management have moved away from traditional ‘replacement planning’ systems and use an approach called the ‘talent pool’. The talent pool develops a group of high-potential individuals for senior management roles in general.
A talent pool is a group of high-potential people who have been identified for senior roles in general. Pool members have access to special development opportunities and their progress is tracked by the senior management team with the help of HR.
The existence of a talent pool is determined by its connection with strategic success. The institution will need to decide which roles are critical in terms of their contribution to sustainable performance. Ask of each role or group: “What do these employees do that makes the biggest difference to our institution?”
To be viewed as high-potential, individuals should already be performing exceptionally in their current role. Therefore development should focus on the capabilities needed in future roles. Otherwise promoted leaders will continue to deliver through those attributes that made them successful in the past and this can lead to underperformance or in some cases derailment.