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Succession Planning or Talent Management

Succession Planning or Talent Management

In many of the meetings we have with senior executives and within the HR community, the topic of succession planning invariably comes up. I have worked with and for organizations that have thought of succession planning as just that: a plan or annual exercise to provide names to the executive and the board should a position need to be replaced. Given the competition for talent, it is critical that organizations attract the right talent but also ensure that they have the right opportunities and support infrastructure to retain that talent. The succession planning process is really the challenge for organizations to identify, develop, and retain leaders. In other words, create a process to manage and maximize their human resource assets.

Why is this so important?

Attracting and -- more importantly -- developing and retaining high-performing employees is critical to the lifeblood of an organization. This is increasingly critical as the world of work is faced with continuous change. This change is driven by forces such as technological innovation, globalization, new competitors, and a looming demographic tsunami as the largest demographic group, the boomers, head off to retirement. This is particularly true for membership- based associations that need to maintain relevancy in the world of choice and to ensure the needs of a wide demographic base of members and employees are met. The succession planning process is really about creating practical solutions for building your organizations potential.

Jocelyn Berard, Optimum Talent’s Senior VP & National Practice Leader, Organizational Psychology, has written a book "Accelerating Leadership Development". The book provides a guide that can assist organizations to develop high-potential employees to assume critical roles, develop leadership competencies, and create organizational intellectual and knowledge capital.


The Leadership Success Profile

There is a world of difference between doing a particular job and leading people doing those tasks. All too often organizations promote their highest performer to a people-manager role and later find out the competencies or behaviours that made them a high performer are not necessarily the competencies required as a leader. In simple terms, the Leadership Success Profile is a clear definition of what it takes to be an effective leader in your organization. This is a combination of ability, background, values, and competencies required to provide leadership to a team.

There is a vast amount of academic research and writings on the areas of competencies and personality traits about leadership development. The success profile is a clear description of the requirements of a job or level in an organization which will change based on the job and level. Does your organization have a clearly defined set of competencies required for various levels of leadership? We refer to this as the "Ladder of Leadership."


Diagnosing Development Needs

When an organization has identified and documented the leadership success profile, it then needs to effectively and efficiently identify each high-potential leader's strengths and "potential blind spots." This is done so they can leverage strengths and develop areas where there is a need to improve.

I have participated in many "Succession Planning" sessions where an antidotal comment based on personal bias has derailed a high potential leader’s career. All too often the diagnostic has no linkage to a real development need, and is based on a perception that may or may not be linked to reality. The process should be similar to a visit to physician, where a Doctor would never prescribe a solution without a diagnostic.

Read this Optimum Talent article that elaborates on this key step in the succession planning process. There are many tools available to assist in this critical step of succession planning, which includes 360 feedback and psychometric assessments. It is important to create self-awareness for an individual to develop and grow their leadership attributes.


Prescribing Development Solutions

Without the diagnostic stage, development is often left to the individual employee and manager as part of the annual evaluation process where the question becomes, "what training would you like to go on next year?" In fact, most of our learning comes from on the job experience.

I am sure that each of you can think of a number of "learning" experiences while on the job that have been significant factors in your career success. There is a simple rule that states that 70% of our skill set comes from on the job learning, 20 % is gained from others (coaching, mentoring, and feedback), and just 10% from formal training. A formal documented development plan is important to ensure potential leaders have an opportunity to grow those leadership attributes that the organization requires to lead in today’s complex business environment.

In summary, when succession planning becomes talent management it is a day to day process that provides individuals with clear opportunities to personally grow while addressing the reality of the changing business requirements.



David Roy has a history of building strong teams in a wide range of customer-related service organizations. He is skilled at engaging workforces to drive positive results and create sustained competitive advantage. In today’s volatile, uncertain and highly competitive marketplace strong leadership supported by a commitment to talent management are critical to organizational success. David passionately believes that coaching is a key enabler to maximize the potential of individuals and teams.

In joining Optimum Talent, David brings with him a proven track record in Sales, Business Development, Marketing and Product Development, as well as Customer Service and Operations, in a number of leadership roles with Bell Canada and Canada Post. Most recently he has been engaged in International Business Development in the renewable energy field.

David has completed the Advanced Coach Development Program at Ericson College. He is the practice lead at Optimum Talent for Coaching and Leadership Development. In addition to his current role delivering individual and team-based coaching engagements, David has coached The Canadian National Sailing team and represented Canada in International Sailing events. David has a BA from Carleton University coupled with professional development courses in Finance, Negotiating and Management Strategic Alliances and a certificate in Strategic Thinking and Management from Wharton University. He serves on the Advisory Council for Algonquin College School of Business. In addition, David is a part-time professor in the Global Business program at Algonquin where his passion for developing and coaching is demonstrated as he prepares graduate students to enter the complex competitive world of global business.



Want to build a stronger team in your association? Give the CSAE BoardREADY Card Deck a try. Despite it's name, the cards can be used for all manner of problem-solving and team-building exercises. Give it a look.


Attend our session on November 15th to get started and learn how to facilitate relevant change that improves our organizations and our world.



David Roy, Leadership, Boards, BoardREADY


Guest Contributor, Governance / Leadership



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