Is Your Company Facing These Hidden Succession Planning Flaws?

Posted by Mai Hoai Thu on

What makes or breaks an organisation? For many, it comes down to leadership, but securing strong leadership relies on having the right people in place to take the reins of power over time.

Succession planning is notoriously tricky, as faulty implementation can spell disaster, but when done right, it fuels continuity and growth. But what does "right" entail, exactly?

Read more: 4 Talent Management Trends That Will Drive Bussiness' Success in 2024

Uncovering 2 Hidden Flaws: Why Your Succession Plan Fails and How to Fix It


Is succession planning only applicable to C-level positions?

While replacing executives and other top leaders is a critical part of succession planning, it is also important for organisations to consider succession strategies for other leadership roles. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Mid-level managers play an important role in daily operations, leading teams, and achieving business objectives. Having a succession plan in place ensures continuity in delivery if a manager leaves or is promoted.
  • Front-line supervisory roles oversee staff and initial project work. Succession planning helps onboard replacements seamlessly without losses in productivity or quality.
  • Succession planning should be done for any single-point-of-failure roles. This applies to specialised expertise or responsibilities held by just one or two people.
  • Grooming internal candidates for future leadership opportunities at various levels helps engage and retain top talent. It fosters motivation and loyalty among mid-career employees.
  • Developing pools of potential successors across departments and divisions improves organisational resilience. When needs arise in any part of the business, ready resources are on hand.
  • Diversity in succession planning, from entry level through management, supports a culture where all staff can envision leadership prospects.

So while C-suite succession is understandably important, effective succession strategies should be implemented more broadly to cover all levels that directly or indirectly impact business operations, culture, and performance. A holistic approach yields the greatest organisational benefits.

Back to the top

Hidden flaws in succession planning unveiled

While many organisations understand the critical role of succession planning, they often fail to implement effective strategies.

Studies conducted by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) estimate that a significant percentage, ranging from 50% to 70%, of executives fail within the first 18 months of assuming a new role, irrespective of whether they were recruited externally or internally promoted.

This leads to significant flaws in identifying and developing high-potential individuals to drive both teams and businesses to greater success.

What are these flaws? And why do they occur in the first place?

Back to the top

1. Failure to identify high-potential employees

Many organisations rely on subjective, unstructured assessments, limited data, or even intuition when identifying potential future leaders, leading to the selection of individuals who may not possess the necessary skills or traits for leadership positions.

Read more: [Infographic] High Potential vs. High Performing Employees

When managers are asked to name those they see as high performers or leadership material, it is easy for unconscious preferences to influence their choices. Personal relationships, gender, ethnicity, educational background, and other factors may come into play during the rigorous evaluation of skills and competencies.

Additionally, subjective, unstructured, or limited assessments paint an incomplete picture of an individual's qualifications and readiness. Relying mainly on performance reviews, feedback from a few colleagues, and short conversations provides only a surface-level view of traits that signal leadership potential.

It fails to uncover deeper abilities, preferences, and how candidates might handle future responsibilities that differentiate true leadership material from high performers. Complex jobs like senior management require considering a wide range of criteria.

Read more: Top Secrets in Identifying High Performers for Succession Planning

Back to the top

How to improve:

Improved identification and development of high-potential employees can be achieved by using objective assessments, performance data, and feedback from multiple sources to evaluate employees' potential for future leadership roles.

Once identified, high-potential employees should be provided with targeted development programs to enhance their skills and abilities.

Back to the top

Whitepaper | Developing Growth Mindset in Middle Managers

2. Lack of leadership development in succession planning

Businesses often focus solely on identifying potential future leaders and overlook the developing and nurturing process to help ease these individuals during their transition. About 85% of organisations will have a significant leadership shortfall within five years. 

One reason is short-term thinking, i.e., businesses frequently prioritise short-term goals over ensuring a strong pipeline of long-term leadership, as identifying high potential requires less initial time and effort compared to multi-year development plans.

Another contributing factor is a lack of resources. Truly developing future leaders into their roles demands substantial investments of money, people, and programs implemented continuously over extended periods.

However, businesses may be unwilling or unable to commit these types of resources on an ongoing basis when development spans several years. Without dedicating the human and financial capital required, development efforts can deteriorate over time.

Similarly, responsibilities for leadership development initiatives often lack clear accountability within organisations. With no single leader tasked with following through, potential successors identified initially may fail to receive consistent support and guidance.

Read more: Succession Planning: the Faqs You Need to Know

Additionally, businesses tend to operate more reactively, addressing immediate needs rather than proactively planning leadership transitions well in advance. This hinders businesses from creating a steady pipeline of internal talent ready for future roles.

There is also sometimes a perception that outside hires will add more value than internal candidates. As a result, cultivating successors organically from within receives fewer resources.

Together, these reasons help explain why succession plans fail in many organisations.

Back to the top

How to improve:

Organisations should invest in comprehensive leadership development programs that combine formal training, mentoring, coaching, and on-the-job experiences tailored specifically to the needs of potential future leaders and their intended leadership roles.

Formal training sessions provide structured learning opportunities to enhance leadership capabilities, while mentoring relationships offer guidance and support from experienced leaders within the organisation.

Coaching sessions help individuals refine their leadership style and approach, enabling them to navigate challenges and make strategic decisions effectively.

On-the-job experiences, such as stretch assignments or cross-functional projects, allow aspiring leaders to apply their learning to real-world scenarios, gaining valuable hands-on experience and building confidence in their abilities.

Combined, these tactics provide a holistic leadership development approach to nurture and develop a strong talent pipeline ready to step into key leadership roles whenever necessary.

Read more: How to Build a Coaching Culture in an Organisation

Back to the top

Sidestep flaws and guarantee success by leveraging actionable insights

Without a robust succession plan in place, organisations will struggle to fill key leadership positions, leading to a loss of continuity, knowledge, and expertise. This can result in decreased productivity, employee morale, and even financial performance.

Even worse, poor succession planning practices foster a culture where employees do not see clear paths to advancement. Not having defined processes for advancement and development through the ranks promotes an atmosphere where staff feel more transient rather than invested in their long-term careers.

This ultimately leads to higher turnover as top performers gravitate towards more opportunity-rich workplaces over time.

As mentioned in earlier sections, many organisations rely on subjective, unstructured assessments, limited data, or even intuition for this highly crucial task. A lack of data prevents leaders from evaluating important traits that can only be found through standardised, validated tests.

The walkaround? Quantifying traits known to connect to leadership success through psychometrics expands the pool of information for more reliable decision-making. It helps remove personal biases by focusing entirely on skills and reducing ambiguity about a candidate's strengths and development needs.

Read more: Psychometric vs. Personality Assessments - Are They the Same?

Through the use of appropriate psychometric assessments, it can help increase accuracy and streamline the identification of leaders by incorporating objective, comprehensive data into the process. Moving beyond subjective views and limited indicators widens the lens for talent evaluation.

Psychometric assessments provide clarity on who demonstrates the optimal qualifications for senior roles based on consistent, evidence-based models of leadership attributes. While no single method is definitive, combining psychometrics with performance insights yields a more robust foundation for selection decisions.

Back to the top

Curious about how psychometrics can drive success? Connect with TRG International to discover how our solutions can pinpoint the right talents for each role and unleash their full potential, thus propelling your company towards success. Don't hesitate, schedule a demo today!

Request leadership development demo

Topics: Talent Management

Upcoming TRG Events

Latest Posts

Most Viewed Posts

Our Editorial Mission

Rick Yvanovich

 Rick Yvanovich
 /Founder & CEO/

With TRG International Blog, it is our mission to be your preferred partner providing solutions that work and we will make sure to guide your business to greatness every day.

Subscribe to TRG Blog

Follow TRG Blog