Three Steps to Embed Leadership Development into Succession Planning

snow_spring_by_peehsSmall to mid-sized companies often face the challenge of having shallow bench-strength.  Most individuals in such companies wear multiple hats and don’t have anyone backing them up.  There is also a lack of institutional knowledge being handed down over years of internal promotional opportunities. Gone are the days when employees stayed with the same employer for decades, working their way up through the ranks with clearly defined career paths and plenty of time to grow into future leadership roles. 


Here are three steps companies can take to prepare “ready now” talent:

  1. Determine what leadership and management competencies are key to successfully heading up the organization.  This includes the competencies needed today, and projected to be needed in the future.
  2. Create and update job descriptions to include the key competencies identified, then design learning and development programs around the leadership and management competencies.  All types of skills training, and leadership and organizational development programs will need to include one or more of these key competencies to embed them into the fabric and culture of the company.
  3. Hire individuals who already exhibit the key competencies, or who clearly have the capability to develop the leadership competencies needed. Then begin developing newly hired staff along with existing staff to continue the culture changes started in step 2 above.

Companies with little bench-strength can take advantage of succession planning when it is focused not only to top executives, but includes developing leadership competencies at all levels of the organization.   Training individual contributors, supervisors, managers and executives to become strong leaders in any role or position within the organization helps ensure high potentials will be ready to succeed when called upon.  The exact future position or career path may be unknown, yet leaders will have the skills to adapt, think critically, make sound decisions, and manage organizational changes.   This is why it is more important than ever for companies to invest in leadership training and development for all individuals and work teams, regardless of the current formal job title or level within the organization.