Presented by Minnesota Manufacturing Executives (MME)

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Better. It’s something all manufacturers strive for. Better outcomes from better performance. But how do you get there?

Mick Hannafin
Area Vice President, Health & Welfare Consulting
3600 American Boulevard W.
Suite 500
Bloomington, MN 55431

Transitioning from succession planning to talent management

Succession planning can be part of a broader talent management strategy that fosters the next generation of leaders. Reframing conversations to focus on “what’s next in life” can smooth an otherwise demanding process. Here are four key ways to transition from succession planning to talent management:

Identify and define roles

Succession planning is often a component of risk mitigation. Although C-suite and other prominent positions are typically covered, there’s an opportunity to more effectively manage talent succession and reduce risk by including as many roles as the organization can afford.

This exercise requires clearly identifying the roles to fill, their requirements and drivers of success — including core competencies, skills and other criteria related to the organization and the specific role. Other relevant factors to evaluate are plans for retirement, turnover trends, employee engagement and satisfaction, compensation competitiveness, management training and employee readiness.

It’s also important to define and communicate who will do the evaluating and planning — for instance, direct managers, past managers, a third party, the board of directors or others. Small firms may involve the CEO or senior leaders. Whatever the approach, employees should have a clear understanding of these process details.

Results may include leadership competency models, updated job descriptions, and a list of roles to include in the succession plan from the C-suite down.


Data for individuals should cover the position description, scope of responsibility, leadership work history, leadership style dimensions, age and other demographics. Plans for retirement, performance and development priorities, and long-range personal and professional goals for advancement complete the profile. Automation is another important capability because it allows for a flexible, fluid process where nothing is set in stone. Assessments and ratings can change, interests may shift, and organizational needs always evolve.

Institutionalize talent development

Succession planning contributes to the stability of the organization’s future by shaping a better employee experience and workplace culture. Individualized support for planning and achieving goals helps employees match their experience to their expectations.

CEOs establish the environment for talent development and are uniquely positioned to inspire its success. However, while top leadership defines and conveys the organization’s commitment to this cultural priority, HR facilitates progress by providing the right structure and tools along the way.

An alternative to role-specific succession planning is talent pools. Instead of pinpointing the next CEO, this relatively new approach identifies executive talent pools that show C-suite potential. The overall advantage is a better line of sight across the organization into individuals whose aligned capabilities are a fit — including leadership competency, technical skills and strategic capacity. The visibility these pools create also makes it easier to uncover qualified prospects, who may have been overlooked because they haven’t had face time with executives.

Communicate with transparency

Culture dictates the degree of transparency to use when notifying people of where they land on the list of succession candidates — or if they don’t fit into the plan. To the greatest extent possible, managers should be direct with feedback, support development plans and manage expectations. Employees need
to be told where they stand relative to realistic career goals, and notified of opportunities to grow or enhance skill sets or other abilities.

Above all is the importance of celebrating successes. Promotions are opportunities to have in-depth, productive conversations that either encourage high-potential candidates to stay, or support talent with other opportunities to work more purposefully toward reaching their goals.

Integrating succession planning into ongoing talent management enhances efforts and results. Development plans customized with programs like mentoring, coaching and stretch assignments fortify organizations with resilience to change by strengthening employees with the readiness to take on their next career phase. When enough time and intention are put into a workforce plan — that’s openly discussed and regularly updated — succession planning becomes a welcome proposition and a highly valuable investment.

Genevieve Roberts
– Managing Director & Service Line Leader, HR & Leadership Consulting

Make good use of data

Another opportunity is integrating data and insights to improve processes and outcomes for managing talent succession. A basic nine-box matrix for succession planning has been used for years to evaluate past performance and leadership potential.

Complete, data-driven approaches introduce past performance appraisal ratings, a 360-degree assessment, and interviews with incumbents that create a comparative profile of their strengths, areas for improvement and career goals. An analysis of all inputs forms a sharper picture of future placements that are likely to be the best fit. Findings also inform specific and constructive suggestions for progressing people to the next level — by helping them stay put or realigning roles.

Organizations can also increase planning efficiency through technology investments. With cloud-based programs, leaders’ transition and development plan data is easily updated and shared across the globe.