Succession Planning’s Role in Building a Solid Foundation

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Imagine walking into your boss’s office for a performance review and just as you get ready for the usual questions, your boss asks “Are you ready to be replaced?”

This is the question that Mark Zuckerburg, the CEO of Facebook asks employees during performance appraisal or performance review. This is counter-intuitive as one would aim to be a top performer on the job than having to ensure a replacement for their own jobs. How do you feel if you are asked by your boss?

Mark Zuckerburg’s method of managing his employees is essentially driving the managers and employees to plan for key role sucessors so that the departments and company will continue to function as per normal when an employee leaves their job. Whereas a typical performance management process reviews the achievements of the past 6-12 month.
By incorporating this new method of performance reviewing, it forces the managers and leaders to look ahead and prepare to either recruit or enhance the skills of their subordinates in order to succeed him/her or replace whoever that may leave their jobs in the department. With the focused talent management process, it allows the company to steadily expand and scale because the incoming employee is competent to carry out the duties; reducing disruption. Furthermore, this encourages internal promotions, reassuring employees that more managers/employees can be promoted (or assigned with more responsibilities) when the company grows and expand.
This is exactly what Facebook strategy is in scaling the company quickly with the ability to grow its revenue in 8 years from $272 million to $27.6 billion. With this talent management process, the employees of Facebook can constantly develop their skills and take on more responsibilities as the company grow.

Some of the key observations from this short case study:
1. HR department can indeed play a very big role in formulating and executing business growth strategy. HR leaders should be part of the top management team to formulate talent management strategy and program to fit the business strategy. A responsive and integrated human capital management system can automate many of the processes and help to increase productivity in the implementation of the processes.

2. Succession planning is a key element in overall talent management. It is a management process that requires yearly, monthly and daily activities and focus. It should not be considered solely as an HR program but part of the line business management programs.

3. Succession planning and execution of the process requires a well-documented and comprehensive database of employees, job description, their competencies and past performance. Hence, in order to prepare for succession planning, there should be an integrated performance appraisal system and training management system together with analytical reporting capabilities. From there, the succession planning software will draw data and information about the employees and managers from the various HRMS modules and talent management system modules for the management team to conduct a 360-degree evaluation of the candidate.

4. Succession planning is not only meant for C-suite executives, it should be applied to all departments with priority on key departmental leadership roles followed by the operational executives. This can be tedious process and, thus, a comprehensive succession planning software and integrated human capital management system will greatly assist in this aspect.

In summary, consistent reviews of performance management together with succession planning has proven itself to be an effective way to assist in the growth of the business. If HR leaders actively formulate and execute the programs and process together with the line business leaders and the C-suite top management, it will be a great opportunity for HR leaders to create visible impact on the business.

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