coronavirus pandemic quickly and widely altered the talent priorities for many organizations,
from delayed or cancelled training programs to pressing pause on various other initiatives
to focus on the urgencies of each day. But as the weeks grew into months, many
of those organizations have by now gotten their feet back under them in areas
such as performance management, training, succession, and more.
2020, the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), in partnership with HR Executive magazine and HRCI, collected data from over 1,500
HR executives at organizations employing at least 1,000 people on their
approach to succession planning and management.
2020, i4cp captured additional follow-up data from a select group of those
original survey respondents to determine whether and how the COVID-19 pandemic
and the social unrest that followed the death of George Floyd would impact their
approaches. The results are illuminating as to where organizations stand today
and what succession will look like going forward.
It is likely
that in March of this year, few organizations would have cited succession as an
immediate priority (including most of those that had previously set it as a
priority for 2020.)
But what about now, four months later?
A growing talent risk
survey participants if the priority for succession management in their
organizations has changed because of multiple recent crises, i.e., the COVID-19
pandemic, social unrest, etc. Only 6% indicated its priority had significantly
increased, but a solid 25% said it has increased somewhat—far more than the
mere 9% that indicated the priority has decreased somewhat or significantly.
While 58% indicated the priority has stayed the same, the tilt towards an increase
suggests a growing talent risk concern for leaders and other top talent.
organizations for the most part aren’t rushing to make big changes to their
succession management strategy.
We asked the
follow-up survey respondents about the extent to which the changes driven by
the COVID-19 pandemic to how organizations operate in turn alter the strategy
related to succession management—only 14% said to a high or very extent. While
37% indicated a moderate extent, another 34% said there will be small changes,
and 8% said no changes are coming at all in their organizations.
Even a moderate
scope of change could in some cases be important, so we asked survey
participants to describe the kinds of changes their organizations are making
(or soon will make) to their succession processes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
surprisingly given the past few months, the most common response is an
increased focus on short-term/emergency needs and the value of contingency
planning. A few respondents said that for budgetary or other reasons they are
streamlining the succession planning process to focus only on the most senior
or highest-impact roles, but more indicated that the pandemic period has made
clear that they need to apply their succession process to more roles in the
indicated that more attention is needed to leadership development programs, and
the need to raise the visibility of bench risk where it exists in the
organization. A couple of respondents noted plans to switch to a talent pool
approach, rather than succession that focuses on individuals for specific
positions, a tactic our survey in January found to be a next practice (meaning far more high-performance
organizations are adopting it than low-performers, even though overall adoption
in remote work is leading some organizations to reassess the necessity of
relocation of leaders within regions to be in the same office as their teams,
thereby broadening the pool of potential successors. And circling back to the
issue of succession priority, one respondent frankly noted that succession is
moving up “the list of priorities now that there are realized reasons to
is clearly also impacting how succession candidates’ readiness is evaluated, as
all of the following characteristics were cited by a significant number of
respondents as those they anticipate will see an increase in importance:
the person interacts with others to achieve results, not just the results
that promote inclusiveness or belonging (60%)
ability to engage with others in a virtual environment (54%)
ability to engage with others across the enterprise beyond their team or
that promote holistic well-being (40%)
on diversity and inclusion
is of course not the only recent event leading to changes in succession
management processes. We asked participants to what extent they believe the widespread
social unrest in response to the death of George Floyd and others will alter
their organization’s succession management strategy going forward. While only
7% indicated it would alter it to a high or very high extent, 31% said it would
impact it to a moderate extent.
asked: “Given the commitment (or recommitment) your organization has made to
diversity and inclusion as a result of the social unrest regarding racial
inequities, which of the following practices will your organization emphasize
significantly in order to ensure greater diversity at leadership levels at your
organization?” No one practice listed garnered over 50% of the responses—an
indication that there are many steps organizations can take to address issues
of low representation of Blacks (and members of other underrepresented groups)
in leadership roles.
common tactic (46%) cited is reviewing job requirements and qualifications for
bias (e.g., like-me traits, schools/universities sourced, gender biased
leadership traits). A close second (44%) is incorporating diverse talent
development and succession requirements into all people managers’ performance
goals. The other two approaches cited by over a third of respondents are broadening
the sourcing of talent for succession (e.g., eliminated requirements that limit
applicants and potential talent pools) and providing targeted development
(e.g., sponsorship, coaching, mentoring, and/or training) of individuals in
chart below for more interesting approaches organizations are leveraging to
tackle this important issue.
over the remainder of the summer, we’ll publish more research results,
analysis, and case studies from our Next Practices in Succession Management
study (available exclusively to i4cp members).