Article: Success without a successor is failure


Success without a successor is failure

Organisations are realising the criticality of institutionalising a leadership pipeline process that ensures a high level of 'Leadership Liquidity'

The economic environment is a complex interplay between volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity and delayed feedback


While the impact of high performers on company performance is significant,organisations cannot afford to neglect the so-called 'B-level' Employees


Traditionally, change and leadership initiatives stemmed from requirements of organizations that were largely tactical – how can individual contributors become team leaders or how can leaders become effective coaches and mentors? Although these continue to remain critical development activities, on a standalone basis, their contribution towards enhancing business impact continues to remain peripheral at best.

Today, the economic environment is a complex interplay between volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity and delayed feedback (VUCAD). It stretches the abilities of organizations as well as leaders. Additionally, the War for Talent1 the famous term coined by McKinsey & Company, is also driven by the looming retirement of baby boomers in the developed economies and the continuous surplus of young talent in emerging markets.

Consequently, with the changing times, organizations are realizing the criticality of institutionalizing a leadership pipeline process that ensures a high level of ‘Leadership Liquidity’, which cascades from the top management. Additionally, there are several challenges in addressing relevant development; as research suggests that while more than 20% of corporate learning and development spending is allocated to leadership development, less than 8% of organizations think and operate from a strategic level.

To ensure relevance and success to all stakeholders, any talent management strategy, such as developing a leadership pipeline must focus on the following three points:

1. Target Talent at all Levels

Recently, a leading company in the area of BFSI, identified the need to develop leaders across all levels to realize its vision to become the most preferred insurance organization in the country. Additionally, the aim to identify and develop leaders across all bands was also linked to the objective of being seen as the country’s most admired company. In keeping with the two objectives, the company identified and segmented each leadership band across all the relevant levels – from first time managers to business unit heads, right up to the executive management.

Segmenting levels is a critical focal point in any leadership process because the skills, competencies and behaviours required at each level are different and unique. Our research has shown that while the impact of high performers on company performance is significant, organizations cannot afford to neglect the so-called ‘B-level’ employees. Therefore, different focus on both high performers as well as on steady and capable performers across all levels is a vital initiative in order to bring about the desired change in the organization.

2. Define and address various employee (and business) value propositions by developing a holistic process

Recently, we worked with a leading IT company that provides software solutions to the financial services industry. The objective was to develop and implement a comprehensive leadership development process to identify ‘ready now’ successors for various leadership positions. The challenge for the company lay in ensuring sustainable and profitable business outcomes in the midst of fluctuating macroeconomic conditions. This translated into effective development of requisite competencies such as strategic thinking, information search, customer focus, etc., among business heads and managers.

To address and increase the current levels of competencies with respect to these behaviours, the approach involved working closely with the client team and business leaders through a range of competency assessments, development workshops, and action learning projects and coaching sessions. The entire engagement was conceptualized in tandem with the business heads and HR team to ensure a targeted and sustainable outcome among candidates during the development process. More specifically, the development plans were based on every leader’s unique strengths and areas of development based on our High Performance Behaviour Model.

3. Deeply embed the talent management strategy within the overall strategy of the business (empower HR)

Taking a longer term horizon, initiatives can also extend into other areas such as Talent Acquisition, Performance and Talent Management, and Leadership Development. For instance, we have partnered with one of the largest pharmaceutical companies for over six years to integrate the High Performance Behaviour model across their entire talent management strategy – from recruitment to retention and development.

As mentioned earlier, today’s global workforce is a result of a significant demographic change coupled with the effects of globalization. Increasingly, organizations need to address the needs of employees from both generations: new and old. Similarly, they also need to balance the requirement to seamlessly migrate talent across different locations based on ever fluctuating business requirements.

In the case of the pharmaceutical company mentioned above, by basing its entire talent strategy on a well researched framework, the organization was able to integrate every aspect of the talent lifecycle. Today, across all locations, the company is successfully able to define new roles based on the development framework and populate them with capable leaders. These leaders then display the requisite skills and competencies based on assessments formulated using the same universal framework. In doing so, the HR team of the company ensures it speaks the same language as the functional, business and line managers when addressing business issues.

Therefore, to build strong organizations for the future, organizations and business executives must view talent management as a critical business enabler, and link the volatile business environment with changes in global workforce demographics.

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Topics: C-Suite, Leadership, Learning & Development

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