The concept of a strong bench for an organization suggests that an organization becomes a fort in the today's competitive business environment if it has a strong team of employees to support the organizational goals and mission. This concept of strong bench further illustrates that the workforce is not just for the current situation but is geared to the future needs of the organization. The future needs can only be met if the company has talent and it hones the talents of its employees to prepare them for future responsibilities. So, its not just about having strong talented candidates for employees but it also involves engaging them in activities for a future position. If the company then has a strong bench meaning that a pool of honed and geared-up talent ready to assume more responsibilities then it gives that organization an edge.
This whole article emphasizes the importance of succession planning in strategic management of human resources. In today's age most fortune 100 companies follow advance levels of succession planning for future positions. They plan not just for senior positions and for cases of emergency rather they carry out this activity at all levels and all situations. They attempt to utilize and tap the talent of their employees by involving them in development activities. These development activities not just prepare them for future roles but they also create a band between employee and employer. The whole activity if carried out by the total dedication and support of management can give company a chance to stand out on the basis of not just in-house talent but outside talent will also get attracted to the company's cadre. The article effectively highlights various issues in its different sections that are summarized in the following paragraphs.
Succession planning is an important aspect of HR management that looks for training and development requirements for future middle, upper and even senior level position in case of an emergency or otherwise. In case of key positions the succession plans becomes more important. Factors like turnover and growth also require this tool to be in place for back up candidates from the talent pool. Companies like Wendy International keep a talent pool as back up candidates.
According to a book Effective Succession Planning (AMACOM, 1995), succession planning can be done in four stages. The first generation succession plan is the most basic plan for emergencies as to who can replace top person immediately if an unforeseen event takes place. In second generation replacements for even middle management are planned. Third generation goes to new level involving development activities for promising talent for a future role. While in-house talent is the focus of third generation, fourth generation succession planning looks for outside talent. For instance, looking at the management expertise and potential of an outsourced company. Though companies look for outside pool for future replacements but it is actually the in-house growth and promotion opportunities that may work wonders for the organization.
The starting point for an organization towards succession planning would be a simple chart with two or three people mentioned having potential for a position and the competencies required for such positions and gaps thereof. Companies like Dow Chemical Co. maintains a list of people for critical positions and positions which are likely to continue in future. They can also call them ready now or ready in a year candidates. This way companies can gauge their bench strength and the development activities they need to prepare them for future roles.
Development plan is crucial element in the succession plan. It comes in place when organizations assess their future needs and the available talent and the gap between them. This will help them focus on activities, like job rotation, mentoring, special assignments or projects etc. To groom potential candidates for succession. A succession plan without focused development efforts can hardly work for any company.
Another important but debatable part of succession planning is about informing employees of the succession plans. Most companies don't believe in explicitly telling employees about their succession plan because it may result in many other human resources problems of bias, lack of effort on chosen employee's part, attitude problems etc. Most organizations chose subtle ways of indicating to employees their potential and if they are hooked to the development activities then the plan becomes obvious in a way also.
Human Resource department's role is crucial in the whole succession-planning department along with top management or CEO's complete support. The process must be carried out with utmost care by the HR department with all the people involved at all levels and with the help of special software to support this huge activity. In the beginning HR department can start by identifying people in a group of 30-40 and then moving on step-by-step to third and fourth generation succession planning to support their strong bench.
Now there are some important questions that need answers with respect to this article and the issue of succession planning. As identified in the article, many issues emerge when it comes to the selection of employees for successions. If done explicitly employees become more bloated and may develop attitude problems. If too much attention is given to one employee than other talented or potential candidates may feel left out. The mangers eek a balanced approach to succession planning where they can concentrate on individuals and group of individuals without creating unnecessary turmoil. "There are several causes of the gap between the promises of traditional succession planning and what is delivered. The most important goal is developing strong leadership teams for strategic tasks. The means of doing this lies in succession management, which offers a more flexible and dynamic approach for developing strong leadership teams" (Bruer, Leibman & Maki, 1996).
Initial assessment method such as skill inventory, peer assessments, self-assessment, managerial sponsorship etc. may definitely help in identifying the potential of candidates. For example, if there is a general consensus in peer assessment that a particular candidate is potential and has the required leadership skills for future positions then it would be easy to concentrate on that particular person. It may be the case that same person has higher ratings by peers and managers but his skill inventory is not updated then development efforts could be moved in that direction. These HR assessments methods do make a basis for the selection of employees in the succession plan.
Substantive Assessment methods such as Seniority and knowledge, job knowledge test, performance appraisal, assessment center etc. further aid in the process of selection of candidates in the succession plan for key positions. All such HR methods and any that an organization employs help tremendously in the overall selection. These methods provide a good input to managers but the purpose of these methods are not to help explicitly in succession. These policies are generally adopted as general HR policies as a part of routine recruitment, selection, training and development, appraisal and compensation policies but each one of them help in identification of a potential candidate. "Performance appraisals and 360-degree leadership surveys are good sources of data. The assessment data collected during application also can be used. The individual's and others' assessments of his or her leadership traits, for instance, could offer insights into the participant's style and motivation level" (Pernick, 2002). The whole database can then be used using some special software to answer the key questions in HR managers' minds regarding successions. Many organizations though discuss some aspect of development geared towards future but most adopt a subtle regarding the communication of succession plans. Therefore, selection is done in a discretionary way for succession plans.
The introduction of concepts of equal employment opportunity, affirmative action, sexual, racial or religious discrimination etc. has also given way to consideration of legal issues in…