Lisa Winnard: Making a success of succession planning


For the majority of financial advice firms, talent is their most important asset. With this in mind, a planning strategy can be a real motivator for those being actively developed for a successor role in the foreseeable future. But how do we make a success out of succession planning for the wider personnel population?

My experience with succession planning and talent rating has been with a holistic perspective whereby, although key roles are given focus, intelligence on core, as well as supporting, roles is gathered in order to maximise potential from across the whole business.

At a practical level, the use of a structured way of assessing talent combined with the necessary requirements of a given role sees a group-wide landscape of management risk and development needs emerge.

When the intelligence plotted in these grids is compared with the role and person profile, prioritisation of those within a workforce becomes evident. At one end of the scale Green (or “low”) roles are easy to recruit for, either internally or externally. These roles are not critical and the individual that carries it out is not key to the business. They do not have any fundamental knowledge or skills that cannot be easily replaced.

Meanwhile, Amber (or “medium”) roles can, on occasion, be difficult to fill. The time taken to get employees here to a level of competence may be longer. The role carried out by the employee is important to the function. Individuals in this role hold key knowledge and skills that would be detrimental if lost by the business. They are not easily replaced.

Finally, Red (or “high”) roles are the most difficult to fill. Individuals fulfilling these roles are critical to the operation of the business and employees here will have vital skills and knowledge.

The best match of the “high talent” people with the critical roles then requires exploration of the development plan required to sustain that early pairing. Consideration must always be given to the future of the business, its needs and the impact these requirements will have on its people, whether that be in terms of skill, flexibility or vision. The information produced has helped with decisions to buy or build skills and with the evolution of development programmes.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remember to involve your people. A succession plan will not generate success if your talent is unwillingly manoeuvred or for whom the timing of the opportunity just is not right. In her 2007 article charting five strategies for effective succession planning, US consultant Angela Hills goes so far as to recommend candidates should be interviewed periodically about what they would choose as their next job. This gives an opportunity for both parties to revisit those plans or keep them on track.

Lisa Winnard is HR director at Sesame Bankhall Group