HR Roles in Effective Succession Planning

Succession planning fills key leadership voids by proactively identifying position requirements and developing internal talent or sourcing external talent. The need for succession planning extends from top corporate leaders to middle management and even hard-to-fill specialist roles. Many organizations see succession planning as a component of their overall risk management strategies. The greatest threat to the future of a business is the failure to replenish and grow leadership talent pipelines.

In many organizations, the human resources (HR) department is the leader and facilitator of personnel risk management and succession planning strategies. An advanced business degree concentrating on human resources can equip you with the necessary skills to drive effective succession efforts at any company.

Why Succession Planning Matters

Planning for a business’ future is impossible without a strategy to fill positions with leaders who can devise, implement and execute business plans. Succession planning minimizes risk and assures the proactive allocation of proper resources to external search and internal development at the lowest possible expense.

Make no mistake; the onus falls on human resources to partner with senior management to put the “success” in succession planning. The most common reason for the failure of corporate succession planning, according to IMD, is a lack of drive to implement succession planning by HR and senior management members.

HR’s Role in the Process

HR professionals are ideally situated to match current and prospective employees to future leadership and key specialist roles. They are also suited to develop formal procedures to ready both internal and external candidates for positions. In corporations with consistently effective succession strategies, HR challenges every level of leadership to identify and develop top internal talent to fill positions with capable candidates while also being cost-effective.

To these ends, HR pros employ the following means:

Identify critical leadership skills: HR must plot all of the leadership roles in the organization and fully describe the necessary skills required to meet anticipated challenges. This step should also include projecting when key positions may open to allow for preparations.

Identify top talent, top performers and critical skills: Future successors must be identified as current top performers or employees with necessary skills so that a company can prepare them for promotions. Top organizations employ consultants and testing to identify critical competencies.

Develop training programs: Upon stepping into a succession planning initiative, HR professionals must assess current training programs and those programs’ capability to develop talent for the leadership role openings. What are these programs currently, and what alternatives are (or will become) available? How can the programs be monitored for effectiveness as groomed candidates move into leadership opportunities?

Facilitate a process: The process involves asking leaders at every level to graph their departmental hierarchies, reveal their current best candidates for replacing current leaders (in the future or an emergency) and train internal talent now to eventually replace leaders.

Facilitate discussions: There are few surprises in a diligent organization, and HR’s responsibility is to ask questions that ensure everyone is considering succession planning. Who is retiring? Who is transitioning to another department? HR leaders must find out which leaders are most likely to leave, how to retain them and how to shift them into a different role.

Manage knowledge and prevent its loss: Critical knowledge can be lost in transitions from one leader to the next without efforts to maintaining consistency in cross-training and knowledge development of potential successors. HR professionals play a role in ensuring that leaders share knowledge with successors before leaving.

Succession Planning Models: A Key Consideration

Today’s specialized human resource management MBA programs develop HR professionals who understand the different succession planning models and how to use those in an organization. For example, the University of Southern Indiana’s MBA online program with a concentration in human resources trains students to apply models such as mass recruitment, specialized recruitment, external recruitment and optimize these models based on scenarios. In addition, in-depth case study exercises are great tools business schools use to prepare HR professionals to match the right models to specific organizations and their distinct needs.

As an aspiring HR leader, how will your current organization change over time, and what its leadership needs will be? Not only is there a lucrative career outlook for HR professionals, but with a specialized MBA, you will know how to help your organization successfully navigate succession planning — one of its most vital functions.

Learn more about the University of Southern Indiana’s online MBA in Human Resources program.

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