Why is determining succession readiness so difficult?

Succession Readiness

Currently there are many global organisations that have accepted that tracking and developing talent can be a source of competitive advantage. While this has led to the increased use of assessment tools to identify this future potential, the assessment of readiness for the next move is a tougher question to answer.

The question is typically something like: Will the person be ready now, in 3 months’ time, or perhaps only in 2 years’ time?

This is a very difficult question to answer, and we have seen many talent exercises where an individual is deemed ready one year from now, and then when the exercise is repeated the next year, the answer stays the same.

What makes this an even more difficult question to answer is that it is a relatively subjective consideration that is dependent on a range of variables ranging from individual performance, development, motivation, to values, competencies and potential, which are not necessarily easy to gauge. In addition, organisational changes can also impact the answer to the question of “ready for what”?

So, what does one need to take into account in being able to answer this question as honestly, fairly, and accurately as possible?  Three key variables require consideration:

  1. Flow: Given that performance at one level does not guarantee performance at the next, necessitates exploring whether the individual has the potential to be “in flow” with the type of decision-making at the next level of work. This can be assessed through a Career Path Appreciation interview which provides an indication of when an individual may be ready to transition to a more complex theme of work.
  2. Competencies: One also has to accurately identify what the required competencies are for the next level. At the next level the competencies usually change, and what may have contributed to success as a strength at the previous level, could well turn into a derailer at the next if the competency is overused, and not adjusted for the more complex context.
  3. Criteria: In addition, it is essential to define the CRITERIA for readiness very clearly. Sometimes a judgement of readiness is based merely on qualification and a pre-defined career path; however, a career path should also consist of developmental milestones that must be mastered before readiness can be achieved. Very often these development milestones have not been specified. Sometimes individuals are also accelerated at such breakneck speed that they do not spend sufficient time at a previous level embedding the competencies that are required as a foundation for competence at the next level.

Most difficult of all is that it requires human judgement to make this call of readiness; although track record speaks for itself, manager judgement can be skewed by excellent performance at the current level, favouritism factors, and inability to distinguish current competencies versus competencies required at the next level.

In summary, the judgement of individual readiness is a decision that should take into account a clear definition of what constitutes readiness “at the next level” through clearly defined competencies and milestones related to application of skill, as well as clear definitions of potential for the next level. Managers should also be trained on how to effectively identify potential and distinguish this from performance, and assessments that are strongly linked to predicting readiness and performance at the next level should be utilised as objective evidence in considering individual readiness.

For more information on determining succession readiness email info@bioss.com.

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