Weaving It All Together: Workforce Planning, Succession Planning and HiPo Programs

In my last blog post I addressed trends from conversations with clients over the last couple of months about talent development. The subject was: Accurate Identification of High Potential Talent (WHO)

Both client organizations have multiple, existing leadership development programs. The participants for these programs are intended to be high potential future leaders. However, those are frequently not the people who actually show up when the time comes for a variety of reasons.

This blog post focuses on Timing and Integration with Other HR Processes (WHEN)

The timing of WHEN workforce planning and succession planning take place annually should feed the identification of the participants in the leadership development programs. But all too often these HR processes take place independently of one another.

This contributes to the mismatch in the identification of participants explored in my previous post. For example:

  • The leadership development program, which lasts 9 months, kicks off in March. That means identifying participants in January, beginning communications in February, participants booking travel, etc.
    • Funding typically drives this timeframe. A 9-month leadership development program runs 100% within a single fiscal year when the fiscal year follows the calendar year.
  • The company’s succession planning process runs April through June. That means identifying the high potential talent 2-3 months after the program kicks off for the year.
    • Some companies run more than one cohort in a given calendar year. It is possible a future leader identified through succession planning in May/June could join a HiPo program starting in July. But it’s RARE. That tight timeframe requires incredibly close coordination between the business and HR, and within HR (between the HR Business Partners and Learning & Development).
  • The company may, or may not, conduct both operational and strategic workforce planning to identify the skills needed in various locations in both the short term and the long-term. If this analysis takes place, it runs August through October, before calendar year-end.

Instead try this

The ideal scenario in a large company looks more like this:

  • Workforce planning functions as critical input to help identify succession planning needs. If it takes place in Q4, then it feeds into the succession plans for the following fiscal year.
  • Succession planning processes run April through June to identify future leaders and critical talent
  • HiPo programs (if running more than one) kick-off in September (Cohort #1) and in January (Cohort #2), filled with participants identified as a result of the succession planning process

NOTE: This scenario causes the conduct of the leadership development programs to cross fiscal years, which complicates the funding.

Another example of an effective scenario in a smaller company may look like:

  • Succession planning runs March through April to identify future leaders and critical talent
  • The annual leadership development program for high potential talent kicks off in July and runs for 6 months
  • Workforce planning for the next year takes place during September and October

Both of these example scenarios solve the WHEN questions and the WHO problem, if the company implements effective succession planning and workforce planning processes.

Betsy Winkler is a Partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @BetsyWinkler1