Need To Find Talent For Succession Planning? Start Building Relationships

Every day, you work to advance your organization’s mission. And you expect the next generation of leadership to take that torch. The problem is, you’re not preparing for that transition. But you’re not alone.

As referenced in Forbes, only 14 percent of directors had a detailed board succession plan, according to a KPMG survey of 2,300 directors worldwide. Without a plan, you are left with unfilled positions and a lack of direction.

The best way to stay competitive, build a better tomorrow and stay ahead of your competition is to have a sustainable, long-term succession plan to maintain leadership. That starts with finding your best talent for succession planning.

Here’s a system for finding your successors.

“Data is important to succession planning, but you also need to build a human connection with potential successors.”

Use integrated technology
Identifying ‘A’ players to be your next generation of upper-level management and senior executives is tough, especially if you’re using manual processes. Dan Boccabella, the VP of product management at SumTotal Systems, an HR software provider, highlighted the value of using integrated technology in succession planning.

“When using a single platform, critical data needed for succession planning can be collected during other talent management processes,” he said. Boccabella also pointed out that you can access performance data any time and build holistic profiles for your employees. This improves global visibility for when you need to assess your talent pipeline and bench strength.

Find technology that simplifies your talent management and helps you visualize the value of each of your employees. Instead of spending time tracking down performance and competency assessments in isolated systems, you can pull data from one platform.

Build and maintain relationships
Data is important to succession planning, but you also need to build a human connection with potential successors.

Marc Prosser, the co-founder of, an educational resource for small businesses, explained how building relationships with potential successors helps you make the right decision.

“While it may not be strictly necessary, it’s important that senior managers have one-on-one relationships with employees two levels down in the organization,” he said. “Usually for high-level positions, there are multiple potential candidates. What will make one person successful and another less so is his or her ability to develop trust and communicate well with the boss.”

Connect with lower-level management to confirm you’re considering the right candidates and to establish relationship-building as a key aspect of your culture that successor development will continue. To do this, schedule ongoing one-on-one feedback sessions so you get facetime with lower level employees.

Develop clear career paths
Succession planning fails when you can’t retain and motivate top talent. Brian Rhonemus, the CEO of SRA-Rhonemus Group, an executive search firm, said you need to document career paths to motivate executives. Then, develop a succession plan that you can review with the executive team.

“The two most important components in identifying talent is understanding the Position Impact and Success Profile of each position,” he said. “The Position Impact identifies the incumbent, experience, and the impact as well as vacancy risk. The Success Profile identifies required education, certifications and five skills or competencies required for success.”

Promote career paths to employees and detail professional development options for each track. Encourage employees to pursue these paths, and check in with them every month to show them their progress and ask for feedback. This creates transparency, boosts engagement and holds them accountable.

Creating career paths also holds you accountable and encourages all levels to be forward thinking.

How are you identifying the best talent for succession planning? Find and develop your best executives and managers now to fill the succession pipeline today so your company can have a promising tomorrow.