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Is succession planning dead?

The figures are in. 50% of occupations will be redundant by 2025, 47% of all jobs could be automated in the next 20 years and 44% of CEOs are dissatisfied with succession planning. So this begs the question – is succession planning dead?

With the rate of change in the world only increasing, it’s time to reconsider our approach to succession and workforce planning. We need to go beyond a traditional focus on a fairly static organisation and look ahead to what may be a radically different organisation in the not too distant future. 

Succession planning remains relevant for job moves for the next 18 months. It can give confidence to internal and external stakeholders that the company has the technical skills and leadership capabilities to deliver the business strategy. Used well, it can form the basis of constructive development plans and provides clear messages about opportunities to critical skill holders – improving retention and motivation.

But, what about the mid to long term? The future of work is likely to be one marked by continuous and disruptive change. There will be big shifts in how businesses do things and what people do at work. So how can you plan when no-one knows what the future will bring? Will your job be one of those that will no longer exist?

We’ve developed a workforce scenario planning approach (see Figure 1) called Workforce Futures. By examining major trends such as the aging workforce, emerging technologies, generational attitudes, the rise of entrepreneurship etc, we’re helping organisations to explore possible future worlds of work. When we delve into these future worlds, we can discover the type of jobs, careers, rewards, working patterns and development routes that might exist for humans alongside robot counterparts. This will allow us to then plot a route back to today so we can focus on the skills, behaviours, careers and knowledge that will give organisations a competitive edge in that future.   


workforce futures Figure 1. How we scenario plan through Workforce Futures

For example, a client in the aviation sector realised that changes in technology would significantly impact the type of work and therefore the type of skills that they need within their workforce. Historically their focus had been on IQ, analytical skills and attention to detail; whereas to compete in the longer term they need much more focus on the softer skills of emotional intelligence, influencing and engagement. As a result they have not only changed their approach to succession planning, taking a longer-term view on capabilities required for the future, but have also changed their approach to recruitment and development to ensure sufficient access to workers with future focused skills.

Predicting and planning for this change now is vital. If you simply stand back to wait and see exactly how these trends play out, you risk getting left behind.

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