Article: The Leadership Blindspot: Succession Planning during the Attrition Boom

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The Leadership Blindspot: Succession Planning during the Attrition Boom

With leadership changes and employee movements putting organisations in a state of flux, this exclusive webcast session will turn the table by delving deep into what goes into building future-ready succession models to secure the best CXOs.
The Leadership Blindspot: Succession Planning during the Attrition Boom

Succession planning is a critical differentiator in deciding whether an organisation will have a successful year or stay in the red. This is why there needs to be careful consideration regarding who is appointed to steer the ship forward, given that a direct impact will be felt on productivity levels, change management and hiring costs. In partnership with upGrad for Business, People Matters hosted a webinar to take this very conversation forward and empower enterprises in their journeys to find their future leaders.


The attrition boom in India has not limited itself to the front line of businesses but also Leadership, with only 39% senior executives planning to stay in an organization for more than 2 years as per a report released by KellyOCG. 40% of CEOs are hired from outside the organization and reportedly fail to meet performance goals in the first 18 months of their tenure, yet most organizations hire leaders externally instead of grooming successors from their internal talent pool.” said Minaxi Indra, President, upGrad for Business as she opened this exclusive session and highlighted the opportunity costs of not investing in solid succession models. 

Moderated by Indra, this webcast had industry leaders Gaurika Tandon, Head-Learning & Engagement, Bennett, Coleman, & Co. Ltd., Seema Bangia, Chief People Officer, Defence & Aero Sectors and Board of Director, Mahindra Defence Systems; and Dr Nilanjana Bhaduri, Senior Director – Leadership & Organization Development, Cyient sharing their learnings and expertise on building the future leadership bench. 

What are the significant traits of a future CXO? 

One of the vital steps in any succession planning strategy is defining desirable traits and competencies. Given the whirlwind of changes witnessed by the business landscape over the past two years, there has been an evolution in the leadership skills that the organisation and its people seek. When this question was posed to our panel of experts, they offered us incredible insights on leadership traits and behaviours that could be applicable across industries. 

The first and the most pertinent was bold-decision making, where future leaders must be confident to take big bets with and without data; there needs to be the courage to take accountability with calculated risks to lead a culture of innovation. Second is the ability to build winning teams by driving purpose, clarifying the milestones to achieve and moving forward with empathy. Finally, given the accelerated pace of digital transformation, leaders must also embrace digital citizenship and keep up with the latest innovations in the digital space. 

Strategies to lead your succession models to success

Succession planning is all about waging the most strategic talent bets by creating opportunities for your talent and your enterprise to grow. It also builds an empowered, resilient leadership panel that is ready to navigate through times of uncertainty and vulnerability. Having led succession models at their enterprise, our panel came up with the following strategies to champion the culture of leadership: 

Building Shadow-Boards:

Identifying high performers is one step of the process, then comes bringing them together in cohorts to understand the demands of the job and take their shot at devising business strategies to be implemented. Practical learnings are crucial to getting a clear-cut picture of the challenges and opportunities that the role navigates.

Enhancing the Pygmalion effect:

Pygmalion effect is the psychological strategy of building high expectations to enable improved performance. To truly empower future successors to live up to their potential, expectations need to be set with meaningful conversations that outline the reasons behind them being chosen and the tasks they need to undertake to develop the desired leadership competencies. Alignment between the business goals and employee aspirations is a key ingredient for success. 

Leadership buy-in combined with legacy mentoring:

Succession planning needs to be top-driven, and leading by example is critical to ensure mentoring and transparency in these processes. Given that future leaders are expected to take the seat with fresh perspectives, they need to delicately balance this with the legacy of the organisation, its ethos and values. This is where mentoring by ex-CXOs comes in to ensure that the company culture is strengthened while being open to new perspectives and ideations.

Integration with other HR functions:

In times of attrition, succession planning cannot be undertaken on a standalone basis. To retain high-performing talent who could lead the organisation in the future, succession models have to be intertwined with employer branding, hiring, Learning & Development, Rewards & Recognition, and the exit strategy. 

To ensure the success of any strategy, it needs to be measured. Likewise, with succession planning, linking it up to HR analytics and business performance will help capture the effectiveness of the models. As organisations scale up and their complexity increases, these models must be transparent, consistent, and fair, backed by a framework open to revision. As the conversation around the future of work and attrition gets heated, your leaders will play the transformational role in setting the stage and leading the way for business growth. Hence, businesses need to choose strategically with a long term, future ready lens. 

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Topics: Leadership, Learning & Development, Strategic HR, Executive Coaching

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