Putting the ‘Success in Succession

by Matt Poepsel, PhD

Today we’re going to be talking about putting the success in succession. Now by now you’re familiar with the talent optimization framework, and our objective of making the business flow as naturally as it can, from business strategy all the way through to business results. And that means we have to get the people part in the middle, right, comes down to how do we design winning teams? How do we hire top talent?

How do we inspire our people to greatness? And how do we diagnose people problems so that we can get them fixed. Now, inside of the Inspire aptitude, there’s a key activity that is creating jobs and career paths. So once we create new jobs and career paths, that’s going to help us when it comes to existing employees. And this led to a case study of sorts, along from Spotify. So Spotify maintains an HR blog, and this is an article that they posted, and I wanted to use it as a case study of how that company, a very successful company is approaching Inspire. And so if you want to find it, and read it for yourself, I encourage you to do so just take a look at ditch the list with Spotify, HR, whatever, you’ll find it on Google pretty easily.

So rethinking our succession planning approach. This is how they frame the problem. They said, looking at our historical data 80% of critical roles since 2019, had been filled with external candidates, and not with the successors that we had identified for these roles. So what does that mean? So here are our successors that we identified, we thought, these are people we were going to be developing and promoting. And when that doesn’t happen, and we were forced to bring in somebody from the outside, a couple things happen, the culture begins to change some of the interpretation about what’s my my future career aspirations here can affect retention, lots of things can happen.

So kudos to Spotify for looking at this and saying, Okay, it’s time for us to rethink our approach. Now, my favorite part of the article was actually the very last paragraph and how they ended. And so let me give you an example of how I’m looking at this. So the first thing it says is, we may have fallen into one or two of the common pitfalls in the past, the reality is what’s often known as common practice, or even best practice isn’t actually and things change whether the organization changes, its needs change, whatever. And that’s exactly what happened to Spotify.

So again, kudos to them for talking very transparently about what had happened. Now, they immediately go on and talk about the success path here. So successful succession planning means focusing on accelerating growth and readiness of the talent bench. So what you’re seeing is talent strategy, in this case, in the case of succession, and how it is aligned with business strategy, the business is very dynamic. It’s a high tech company, very volatile industry, making sure that we have growth in terms of the capacity of our leaders at every level, and the readiness to be able to have flexibility and resilience to be able to move people around as as new opportunities come up, and we have to take advantage of them, or new risks come in, again, you’re hearing how the business environment creates the conditions for success within the talent strategy. How about this one, sharing our successes and providing tools?

So transparency, another big theme within talent optimization fully on display here in this Spotify example? And then how about access to a more diverse talent bench. So something is critically important for higher levels of innovation and high levels of culture, high levels of inclusion, all these types of things? Diversity is really important diversity of thought all of it. So the fact is that you’re going to have a much stronger workforce when it’s a diverse workforce. And then my favorite part is how they end the article when it says, you know, we hope that we can continue on this succession planning journey. They call it a journey. And they say, once again, to be continued. The reality is that talent optimization is not an event. It’s not a declare victory.