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Determining who is “high potential” for a succession plan
  • Employers should determine which employees have high-potential traits that can be developed as part of a succession plan.

The most important part of a succession plan is determining which employees will be developed. The goal is to develop a pool of employees for a range of executive or management positions. If the company targets certain employees for specific positions, the plan runs the risk of being derailed in any number of ways. For instance, an employee slated for a specific position could decide to leave for another opportunity, leaving the company without a “Plan B.” Steadily developing a pool of employees helps eliminate the risk of having no one ready to step up when the time comes.

When determining which employees to develop, remember that just because an employee is a high performer in his current position, it does not automatically mean the employee will be a high performer in an upper-level position. The level of complexity increases the higher up the ladder. Different positions require different attributes. The attributes that are necessary to be a successful executive are different from those necessary to be a successful manager.

For example, while one position requires the individual to be a visionary and see the big picture, the other requires a skill at implementation of policies and procedures, and paying attention to detail. An individual may not be capable of shifting gears from one set of traits to the other.

Generally, 3 to 5 percent of the total employee population will have high-potential traits. This is the group to target for development in a succession planning process.