Armstrong Craven Takes A Seat At The CHRO Summit

Published 25/10/2020 - 4 min Read

By Armstrong Craven Team

Talent Research Specialists

Quick Summary We recently hosted a round table at the CHRO Summit, talking all things Succession Planning. Catch up on the key takeaways and what we discussed.

4 min Read

On the 8th of September, Armstrong Craven joined a number of high profile CHROs in the executive boardroom, discussing the importance of aligning succession planning with your future business strategy.

During the meeting, CHROs addressed the following key areas: 

  • How a diverse workforce can help enterprises boost business performance and reduce succession risks
  • Streamlining your leadership risk strategy to ensure effective internal decision-making
  • How much are organisations’ pledges for diversity in leadership backed by internal change?

The main topic was split into two themes: 

  1. Succession planning alignment with business strategy 
  2. How to use succession planning to improve representation (DE&I) 

The meeting opened with an overview of the topic and attendees provided examples from their own companies. Even accounting for the variety of sectors represented and the organisations being of different sizes and complexity, the variation in how leadership and succession planning is handled is significant. Some examples included:

  • Low  Attrition rates - The business is relatively inactive in succession planning and the HR team struggles to incorporate a data-driven process to justify investment in this area. There is also a feeling that they lack data around the potential external leadership cohort. 
  • Mature Succession Planning process - so much so that this business now has the challenge to be agile in the application of their process to ensure it reflects the market conditions of their various business units – What would happen if we appointed a ‘ready later’ colleague to a succession role ‘now’? Confirmed that all succession plans have to feature 50% external candidates. 
  • As a subsidiary company, parts of their succession process are controlled centrally which means the UK business struggles to provide career development clarity for internal talent. The UK does not have sophisticated systems for HR and therefore the main priority is to put in a Talent Management system. This will allow them to capture key data – for example ‘unearthing hidden talent’ – at the moment this is purely anecdotal. 
  • The lack of systems to capture succession planning is frustrating. 
  • Use of the classic 9-box grid system, all the boxes are diligently filled in, but there is little intent to appoint. They are trying to unpick this – it looks complicated, but it is not delivering. 
  • Work on the basis that “what gets measured gets done” and realise that in order to bring succession up, the agenda data and visibility of the process is key. One particular business presented their succession plan in front of their risk committee and once they realised how key people are, the topic accelerated up the agenda, now featuring onboard papers and more. 

The conversation moved to discussing how data is used in succession planning. Again, the levels of sophistication and veracity of HR data varied substantially across the attendees; 

Pushing ‘diversity of thinking’. 

Businesses are looking for data points that they can utilise and measure to help with this. 

Some revealed attempts to build a Candidate Management Tool to help track external talent in the hopes of combating low visibility of the external talent market. 

There was considerable agreement regarding a ‘move away’ from Performance Ratings as a way to identify internal talent. On external succession plans, transparency with staff was key. The message to the business is ‘here’s what we’re doing; we are going outside to look for external talent to complement internal benches’.

Although, it is important to note that a few attendee companies are still using them as a data source to inform succession planning, alongside the 9-box grid system.

However, the general consensus followed that we must replace performance ratings with data, applying customer NPS scores for everyone in the business and then overlaying it with other scores - such as employee NPS as a measure of performance. 

Attendees noted that there are several data points available to use. For example, customer satisfaction scores. They have also tasked their business to put in place local succession plans. 

One attendee described their business change which has helped hugely to facilitate this. They are focussing on looking for people from outside their industry. The discussion was animated and could have continued for some time longer as there were a number of areas, including how to use external talent data to inform conversations on DE&I, that were only touched on briefly.

Six Lessons Learned From the UK CHRO Summit

  1. Formal succession planning is very often only focused on internal talent and needs to be broadened to include data from the external talent market. 
  2. Very few organisations manage their leadership succession based on an existing 5-year corporate strategic plan. 
  3. CHROs often lack the data availability or integrity from their HRIS systems to be able to present all the relevant information in one place and form a coherent and coasted case for investment in succession planning and leadership risk. 
  4. Many organisations are looking for data points for internal leadership candidates that are not linked to performance ratings. 
  5. Very few organisations are rigorous at challenging leaders on their own succession plans.
  6. Having visibility of the total talent populations for each leadership role would be useful to inform succession planning. Demographics on talent from under-represented groups (URGs) would be particularly helpful to allow the targeting of diversity efforts on those roles with the most robust cohort of URG talent. 

Indeed, having a diverse leadership talent pool and a robust succession plan is now more critical than ever as the events of the past 18 months have challenged leadership styles across many organisations.

Without a doubt, company-wide change is increasingly needed - even on the Board level, where HR leaders identify the need for new skills, aiming to adapt to the demands of the digital era.

Do you want to learn more about succession planning? Download our whitepaper 'Aligning Succession Planning with Future Business Strategy'. Alternatively, speak to a member of our expert team for tailored advice. 


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