Thursday, June 18, 2009

8 Questions to Get You Started on a Winning Succession Plan

At the Succession Planning Leadership Forum that DHR International sponsored with the PA Center in Shanghai last week, Dr. Marshall W. Meyer, distinguished Wharton Professor of Management and Sociology said that the search for senior management talent is likely to be even more difficult because of the continuing mismatch between supply and demand in China. Having in place a long term plan for developing and promoting corporate leadership is crucial.

Professor Meyer told an audience of more than 100 senior corporate executives that “At the general manager level… the skill requirements will escalate and talent, whether Chinese or non-Chinese will be scarce and priced accordingly. The challenge for multi-national corporations is nurturing and retaining staff with global mindsets.”

The effort required to establish a development program for future leaders is worthwhile because it creates a motivated and capable group of employees that are ready to move forward in the organization when the need arises. “Succession planning in China is setting the example for the rest of our organization worldwide,” said panel member Gordon Hwang, Senior Vice President, Tyco Electronics.

Mr. Hwang added that, in an environment where Tyco Electronics China has 7% monthly turnover and is trying to grow the business in China while dealing with a global recession, succession planning has been very challenging.

How can you be sure you have the talent and leadership on hand to grow your business, execute corporate strategies and deal with retirement and attrition? In her presentation, "Succession Planning Guidelines," panel member Caroline Edwards, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Succession Planning at DHR International, explained to the audience where to start. Here are eight questions, drawn from Ms. Edwards' presentation that will get you started on a winning succession plan.
  1. Who buys in? Does your succession plan have the support of your senior management and are they actively involved in thinking about their successors?
  2. Do you know where you are going? Given your company’s corporate strategies and business priorities, what set of experience, skills, abilities and traits will be required for leadership success in the foreseeable future?
  3. What positions are crucial and who is in them now? Who will retire, be promoted or re-assigned in the next five years?
  4. Who are your future leaders? Which high performers are almost ready to step into your crucial positions?
  5. Does your company really understand the capabilities of your future leaders and do your future leaders understand your company’s expectations for them? Annual talent reviews, career discussions, talent development plans are among the many tools available to get to understand the capabilities of your internal talent pool. Ongoing feedback and encouragement should be part of the future leaders’ development plan.
  6. Do you have a formal talent development program? Ideas to help you develop your leadership can include: (1) Stretch assignments including international postings.(2) Formal training to develop technical, teambuilding and leadership skills (3) Mentoring to advise in growth and development. (4) Coaching/feedback to focus on specific outcomes or set of problems
  7. Do you need to look outside? If no bona fide internal candidates are available to fill crucial positions, you may need to look outside. An independent search consultant like DHR International can help you identify and recruit external candidates. We can also help you benchmark your top internal candidates against external candidates.
  8. Do you have a strong pipeline? Having a succession planning process that operates year around and applies globally will help you consistently develop a pipeline of qualified future leaders for crucial leadership positions that need to be filled. It will also help you improve retention and attract top outside hires to you company.

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