Internal career development programs are proving critical in keeping valued employees while concurrently ensuring greater control over the succession planning process. 

Retention research indicates that individuals tend to stay longer where they are experiencing personal and professional growth. Employers who actively partner with their employees aligning career direction with company goals are realizing better retention rates. 

Employees actively involved in their personal development report more satisfaction with their work and tend to stay longer with the organization.

Career development and succession planning synergy creates happier and more productive employees in a growth-oriented company. The organization experiences positive bottom-line results while preparing for future business needs based on mutual corporate and individual growth. 

The ongoing business strategy incorporates retention and succession planning as part of the systemic structure. Internal career development, training initiatives, mentoring, coaching, evaluations, annual reviews, orientation programs are meaningfully connected to organizational goals. The result is a workable process that consistently addresses the corporate requirements for finding, keeping and placing talent in key positions as needed.

Career Development  Succession Planning Synergies

Viewing career development in conjunction with succession planning provides the organization and the individual with what is needed and wanted by both employer and employee. Each side of the equation perceives a reciprocal and equal victory.

The traditional career paths of yesterday defined a point to point progression that targeted a select few for specific leadership positions. 

Career management pathing-programs generally worked because the environment was more static, jobs more stable, and employees were loyal and more connected to their organization. These conditions do not describe today's world of work. Job jumping, career changing, volatile industries and shifting work environments are now a way of organizational life. 

The contracts between employer and employee have significantly changed.

When employees understand what the organization needs and how their personal career aspirations fit into the overall plan, a new contract develops. When companies share the corporate vision with their employees beyond plaques on the wall, internal business partners are generated who have a vested interest in the success of the organization. The two-way information flow allows employer and employee awareness of what is wanted and needed from each other. Mutual expectations are clear. Companies know where they need strong players, and employees are realistically aware of how they fit into the corporations' bench strength requirements. The corporate dialogue is ongoing as to whether or not an individual is considered a possible player, and whether or not that person should be, or wants to be part of the game.

The volatile economy requires creative solutions to succession challenges that normally exist in a company, but are now evolving into gigantic proportions. Succession planning is becoming a major casualty in the engagement and retention drama. Organizations need to plan even more than ever before for their future brain-power needs.

Begin with Role Criticality Process

A place to begin this type of strategy is for the organization to define its succession planning process more broadly to include all the critical roles existing now, needed soon, and necessary in the future.

Each role in every department throughout the organization is analyzed for its purpose and importance in the company. Each individual is appraised for his or her unique retention risk. A company needs to know if the risk is high or low for losing someone who is needed by the organization. Once critical roles and availability of critical people are assessed, a corporate-wide plan of action is developed. 

The role criticality questions include:

  • What positions are needed now, and as we plan for the future?
  • Who do we need to retain and develop for current and projected needs?
  • What is our plan for unnecessary roles?
  • What is our approach for individuals who aren't doing well, but can be trained to improve?
  • What will we do with individuals who are in a critical role, are at a low risk of leaving, but for performance reasons need to leave the organization?

Obviously, the support and involvement of top management is required. HR or any other single department cannot be solo champions. A comprehensive process needs the total buy-in of the executive team to lead the organization. The concept is simple, but involves a commitment to corporate and individual growth by employer and employee.

You may have a starting point in place already. It makes sense to begin with what you have and build from there. Consider utilizing your corporate business plan. It makes sense to parallel your company goals and objectives with an employee's individual career plan.

Traditionally, the corporate business plan is carefully crafted and rarely discussed with anyone beyond management. Understandably so since most often the plan's numbers are used for forecasting financing initiatives. Top-level management and department heads probably had substantial input into them. 

Since considerable time, thought and planning energy has gone into the creation of these plans, why not expand its use to address the ever-growing need for talent in an organization.

When appropriate segments of the corporate business plan are shared with employees, these individuals understand their role in the successful implementation of the plan. It doesn't guarantee that employees realize everything they want, when they want it, and because they want it. That is unrealistic, and not the way it works. The idea is to use the corporate business plan as the guiding instrument, and encourage employees to understand themselves enough to know where they fit in and when.

The reality is that many of today's employees operate under the assumption that the company cares primarily about the bottom line. There has certainly been enough evidence of non-caring corporate behavior with all the downsizing, rightsizing, and restructuring experienced since the mid-eighties. These employees see themselves as more of a corporate free agent, and act accordingly. They want and will have control over their careers. 

Rather than react negatively to employee's take charge attitude, management should capitalize on it.

The next step appears to be an obvious one. Organizational leaders can leverage the investment they made in business plan creation through the synergy of connecting it to succession planning and internal career development.

Here's how it works.

Craft an Individual Career Plan to Parallel the Company Business Plan

Employees are introduced to the corporate business plan. They learn that the company business plan is a selling document. It guides an organization through a reality check from definition of its product to the direction it wants to go in the future. The plan clarifies what a company has to offer the marketplace. It outlines how it will package, price, promote and distribute its product or services. It describes the talent needed to deliver its product or service.

The employee assesses what he or she wants to do in relation to what is currently, and will be available in the future of the organization. Individual responsibility is encouraged. Management involvement is critical.

Companies benefit when they encourage employees to become entrepreneurial about their careers. This type of employee is called aCareerpreneur because the individual assumes the primary responsibility for growth and development. 

He or she understands what it means to be a high-ticket item who needs to provide a valued service within their company. They are clear that while they are primarily responsible for their career, partnering with their company is . These people deliver worth and value to themselves and to their organization.

For an employee to become genuinely invested in an organization's plan the individual needs to understand not only what the company wants to accomplish, but also be specific about what they currently have to offer, and what they want to achieve in the future. This is where the parallel process of internal career development comes into play.

Begin with Corporate and Self-Assessment

An internal career development program begins with assessment. The organization needs to understand what it is all about. The employees within the organization need to understand what they are all about. The component parts need to know how it all fits together.

Organizational assessment necessarily starts at the top with senior management and other key stakeholders. It goes beyond thoughtful understanding and clear articulation of the corporate plan. It involves designing a systemic process in which all things support and fit with each other. 

The components necessary for organizational understanding are complete knowledge of: purpose, direction, financial objectives, strategy, structure, management, external, internal issues and its culture.

  • PURPOSE: What is the company mission, its reason to be in existence?
  • DIRECTION: What are the short and long-term objectives that provide a stable direction for the organization, allowing it to realize its purpose?
  • FINANCIAL OBJECTIVES: What are the metrics that need to be studied, projected and met for the organization to realize its long-term sustainability?
  • STRATEGY: What are the plans and resources that differentiate the organization and give it its competitive edge in the marketplace?
  • STRUCTURE: What are all the systems, processes, policies and procedures within the organization that support the business strategy?
  • MANAGEMENT: What are the capabilities, style and approach its leaders have to communication, decision-making and interaction with other members of the organization?
  • EXTERNAL ISSUES: What is going on in the environment that creates opportunities or threats that could positively or negatively affect the strategy?
  • INTERNAL ISSUES: What strengths, weaknesses, core competencies and resources exist or are deficient within the organization?
  • CULTURE: How are things done, and who and what really matters in this organization?

Once these concepts and objectives are completely understood, employees are then guided through a program in which they define their skills, values, strengths, interests, education, experiences, exposures, natural resources, developmental gaps, goals and other pieces of the puzzle that make up the individual person.

  • SKILLS: What skills have you developed and used in the past that you enjoy utilizing, and want to offer this organization in the future work you do here?
  • VALUES: Where and how do you expend your time, energy and money?
  • STRENGTHS: What describes the unique essence of you that goes to the heart of your expertise and characterizes those abilities that have the highest proficiency?
  • INTERESTS: What is and has been simple fun and provides you an dimension of excitement in your work life?
  • EDUCATION: What are the formal and informal learning opportunities that have molded your thinking process to be what it is today?
  • EXPERIENCES: What are the bitter and sweet things that have occurred in your life that contribute to what it means to be you?
  • EXPOSURES: Where have you been, and what unusual things have you seen and done?
  • NATURAL RESOURCES: What works for or against you by virtue of the way you look, sound or smell?
  • DEVELOPMENTAL GAPS: What is lacking in your personal and professional growth?
  • GOALS: What do you want out of life and wish to be remembered for by the people you care about?

Specifically, individual values and goals are examined and compared to the corporate culture and organizational goals. For the synergy to occur most effectively, management needs to be aware of the basic assumptions, values, norms and artifacts that exist in the organization. The outcome of the assessment phase is corporate and self-awareness.

A Workable System that Grows, Grooms, and Keeps Employees

By paralleling self-assessment to the corporate business plan, employees gain clarity about the organizational culture, goals, strategy and structure. It becomes clearer how and where they fit in, and they can then know if what they are doing is what they want to do. 

Employers stay on top of and in touch with the human resources that are currently available, what each person offers, and they will also know when employees are ready for a mutually beneficial move within the organization.

Since individuals are aligning themselves to situations where they will grow and develop, it makes sense for the organization to be part of that development. It's an effective and efficient process once in place. Managers work with their direct reports on an on-going basis to manage mutual expectations and company realities.

The overworked cliche the "win-win proposition," works well here. When these strategies are implemented, companies grow, groom and keep the people they need, for what they need and when they need them. Employees are happier making responsible career choices. Mutual commitment is high. 

The initial investment requires management's dedication to align corporate structures and strategies to include an internal career development program. The stakes are high, but more than worth the effort. Since good employees remain longer in this type of environment, retention and therefore, succession planning becomes a reality and an almost unquantifiable benefit.