How to build a robust succession planning program that aligns current talent development with future leadership needs.
If your CEO has a sudden heart attack, do you know who will take the chief executive's place? What if your top executives are wooed away to another firm? Do you have the next generation of leaders ready to fill those roles? If not, you may end up with an empty C-suite—or worse, under-qualified people moving into leadership roles because there is no one better to take over.
The only way to reduce the effect of lost leadership is through a strong succession planning program that identifies and fosters the next generation of leaders through mentoring, training and stretch assignments, so they are ready to take the helm when the time comes. Research supports sound succession planning. A study some years ago from consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton concluded that "over their entire tenures, CEOs appointed from the inside tend to outperform outsiders" when it comes to returns to shareholders. Yet many organizations struggle to take their succession planning programs beyond a static list of names slotted for a few top spots.
"Every company has a succession planning document," says David Larcker, a professor in the graduate school of business at
. "The question you have to ask is, 'Will it be operational?" Stanford University
This Roadmap offers human resources leaders a framework and advice on how to create a robust succession planning program that aligns talent management with the vision of the company, ensures employees have development opportunities to hone their leadership skills, and guarantees that the organization has a leadership plan in place for success in the future.
Jim Skinner, former CEO of McDonald's Corp., was known to tell managers:
"Give me the names of two people who could succeed you." It was just one way the CEO continued the culture of succession planning at McDonald's.
It was an understandable priority considering Skinner only landed in the role in 2005 after two other CEO's died suddenly over the course of just two years. And when he retired in 2012, Skinner was confident that his successor, Chief Operating Officer Don Thompson, was ready to take over, because he spent much of his seven years mentoring him.
"I basically felt the responsibility to the board of directors to be sure I provided them with someone who could run the company when I'm gone," Skinner told Fortune a year before his retirement. "Until I was capable of doing that, I would not have left."
This kind of leadership level commitment to training and mentoring the next generation is a vital component of succession planning. And while most executives understand the importance of succession planning efforts, few of them believe their organization excels in this category.