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Succession planning is, at its best, the crux of your company's talent management strategy. If you do it right, every employee — from the entry-level associate to the VP — should have clear pathway to success in your company.

But all too often, this isn't the case. Succession planning becomes focused on senior leadership only—instead of preemptively considering how employees at all levels will advance. For many companies, this leads to low employee engagement levels and retention rates, since employees don’t see a future career at your organization.

As I've learned as manager of talent mobility at Cornerstone, effective succession planning requires working with employees from day one to plan their career development. Creating a company-wide evaluation standard makes the review process easy for managers, and shows employees that your organization is invested in their futures.

What should this "standard" look like? At Cornerstone, we've focused on identifying five key metrics to gauge existing talent and help current employees grow:

1) Potential

Every employee you hire should exhibit potential to grow beyond his or her entry-level position, but it’s important to keep track of this potential to inform the employee’s future career path. Managers should ask themselves, "Does this employee demonstrate the ability and qualities to take on additional responsibilities and roles?"

2) Readiness

While potential and readiness are closely related, they offer different perspectives on employee growth: Readiness focuses on individual promotions, while potential informs the longer-term trajectory of the employee. Readiness prompts managers to ask, "Does this employee have the skills and experiences needed to be successful in his next role?"

3) Risk of Loss

Succession planning should not only take skills into account, but also employee engagement. Risk of loss means asking managers to think about whether the employee seems excited about his or her current position, or ready for a career move. We ask managers to think about the likelihood that an employee would leave in the next six months, based on his or her engagement levels and marketable skills (making the employee a target for outside recruiters).

4) Impact of Loss

If an employee does leave, do you understand the impact it will have on your organization? Succession planning is about preparing for talent gaps from both promotions and departures. This metric helps managers think about their team balance if an employee leaves—whether he or she moves to another internal position or a different organization.

5) Performance

Last but not least, succession planning needs to take employee performance into account. Managers should have a solid understanding of an employee's quality of work, team dynamics and communications skills with clients or customers

While metrics like the above give your company insight on your workforce, it's important to remember that succession planning programs are designed to benefit employees. Be as transparent as possible with employees about your evaluation process, and make sure that managers are communicating feedback and creating development opportunities— not just plugging ratings into a system.

If you do it right, your HR team will be prepared for the next talent challenge, your managers will feel comfortable evaluating their employees and your employees will feel supported along their career paths.

Photo: Shutterstock

Danielle Melendy View all

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