Succession Planning: Is Your Juice Worth the Squeeze?
Who’s next in your lineup? Succession planning is an opportunity for HR leaders to exercise their role as a strategic partner in the business and it’s a constant process that demands continuous attention. Organizations continue to face an exodus of retiring leaders alongside a growing need to effectively fill those key positions with the right talent for the job. This environment has underscored the importance of a talent management structure that supports a proactive succession planning process to ensure an organization is well prepared for growth, organizational restructuring, employee promotions, and/or the loss of key employees.
During a recent HCI webcast about the topic, 66% of our members reported that they were either not satisfied with their current succession planning process, or did not have a process in place at all. Especially in the midst of today’s volatile and uncertain market, organizations without a functional and strategic succession planning process are essentially operating without a safety net, vulnerable to the multitude of inevitable changes to their workforce.
That webcast, How to Get Succession Right – and Avoid Doing it Wrong, presented by Cassie Atteberry, part of the Talent Management team at Hallmark Cards was a great opportunity for our members to learn from an organization that has been effectively planning their future workplace for several decades.
With more than 35,000 worldwide employees, Hallmark Cards is a company of many subsidiaries, each operating with independent succession plans. And yet, part of Hallmark’s core vision - “Life is a special occasion” - is exhibited within each of those succession plans.. At Hallmark, succession planning is part of a continuous talent management cycle rather than an annual meeting or one prompted by an organizational crisis.
But Atteberry is quick to remind us that the holistic approach to leadership pipelines wasn’t always so pervasive. In fact, for nearly four decades at Hallmark, succession planning was administratively burdensome, frustratingly manual and shrouded in mystery. In many cases, the process did not even result in effective action planning, amounting to nothing more than a talent inventory. And while it allowed for a discernible internal talent pipeline, the challenges outweighed the benefits, or as Cassie described, “the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.”
In 2008, Hallmark entered a new phase of succession planning built around efficiency and effectiveness, spurred by integration of technology in the process.. The shroud of mystery was lifted and the organization strived to build more transparency and accountability around succession planning. The new era also used people analytics to help differentiate and calibrate performance and leadership potential. While the process has improved dramatically, the team at Hallmark Cards isn’t resting on its laurels, but is rather looking to evolve for the future and continue to build on what’s working. For an organization with multiple business functions and departments, the opportunity presents itself to apply succession planning not just within internal divisions, but across larger pools of talent.
While some of the steps outlined in the webcast are specific to a business with the size and scope of Hallmark, there are still lessons any organization can learn. A succession planning initiative can be a low-cost endeavor, but it’s crucial that the strategy is clear and authentic. First and foremost, succession plans should be engineered to identify successors. But beyond that, effective succession planning should drive feedback and development, improve talent assessment skills, and inform talent investment decisions in the future.