Good solutions start with good questions. As you begin (or continuously improve) your succession planning process, getting the answers to these questions will allow you to show the value of your work through qualitative and quantitative metrics.
What competencies do future executives need to be successful?
Competencies are the basis for metrics that will be used to evaluate readiness of individuals in your succession pools. Before you can prepare people to be successors, you need to know what they need to be able to do well when the time comes from them to move into the role. This requires a clearly defined competency model that is tied to your mission, vision, and values. Best practice is about 6 to 8 non-technical competencies with behavioral anchors.
How many mission critical roles do you have?
Use your org chart to identify the roles that, if left vacant, pose serious risks to the business. Drawing on a sports analogy, you couldn’t win (or even play) a baseball game without a pitcher. Those are the mission critical roles. Next, identify the “feeder positions” that lead into the mission critical positions. Finally, think about whether there are roles that do not yet exist but will (or should) within the next 5 years. All of these positions should have a pool of successors at varying levels of readiness.
What is your executive turnover rate?
This metric allows you to more accurately anticipate how many people you need in your successor pool and how frequently you need to engage in the succession planning process. If the rate is high, you will need to do more digging to get to the root cause of the frequent churn and address it. The last thing you want to do is invest a lot of time and money in preparing successors (or hiring from the outside) only to have replacements leave before you get a return on your investment.
Assuming you have a robust process for identifying high potentials, what percentage of them have left your organization?
If the number is high, find out why. Do exit interviews to determine why people are leaving. Is it because they didn’t have a clear career path, mentor, or development? Are your high-potentials leaving at a higher or lower rate than your average or low performers? If you are lucky enough to have most of your high-potentials stay, find out why by doing stay interviews. The information you gather can be used as a selling point for recruiting and retention.
What is the average amount of time before people in the successor pool leave or get promoted?
Once you have a baseline, this can tell you how well your organization is preparing successors and keeping them engaged and motivated. If the time is short, it may not be enough to prepare them for success. If too long, people could become frustrated and leave.