My process improvement friends like to say, “Improving the work is the work.” There is some truth to that in HR as well. But, I think that it is also fair to say that “Keeping the talent pipeline full is the work.” I’ll admit that it’s less catchy.
Succession planning is a topic as old as business, so I will cut to the chase: This may be an area where companies are getting better. The data is interesting as well in that it shows (at least in this sample) that public companies are better at it than private ones. I would be curious as to whether there is an additional split between family owned and other types of ownership among the private companies.
I think that transparency (welcomed or not) has a lot to do with boards (and, hopefully, HR) being more concerned about high level succession planning. Part of what big investors are buying is the leadership team and the more focus there is on CEOs and their impact, the more concern investors will have in the less-than-famous leaders.
Good succession planning does not stop at the C-Suite. It should be considered part of talent development for every position in the company. Whether it is at the entry (where are we going to find new employees?) or management (how can we identify leadership potential?) levels, the work is ensuring that there is a strategy for identifying talent.
This process involves both valid assessment (who is interested and capable of doing what we need?) and development (what are the experiences that a person needs to be prepared for the next move?). Keeping the pipeline full means focusing on both so that when a position comes open the question, “Who’s next?” can be answered quickly and reliably.