Part 2: Are They Ready?

In addition to helping identify and quantify the soft skills employers look for in executives, talent leaders can use their experience in developing employee readiness as another asset in executive-level planning. When conducting a transition, many businesspeople expect the successor to be job-ready on day one, said Dan Schneider, partner at succession planning company The Rawls Group.

“The truth is almost nobody is job-ready on day one,” Schneider said. “You know what the position description is, but you don’t know the ins and outs.”

Schneider said in his experience, if employees are 80 percent job-ready on day one, they generally will be able to succeed in a position. It is HR’s job to make sure that employee has the training and development necessary to cross the 100 percent threshold as quickly as possible. That process starts, however, before the job search. As HR does with other succession planning at the low and mid-levels in a company, Schneider said it’s important to build a strong talent bench with individuals identified as high potentials. Then, talent leaders can ensure high potentials receive the learning needed to develop a series of broad leadership skills in preparation for a variety of executive-level positions.

Laura Kerekes, a former vice president of human resources and current senior vice president at ThinkHR, a human resources consultancy, relayed a story about problems trying to box high potentials into specific positions. She and her HR colleagues had identified a high-potential employee and swiftly helped him move up the ladder in her organization. They had it all planned out, how he would eventually take over an executive-level role. But the employee wasn’t interested in the role he was being groomed for, and when an opportunity opened up with a competitor, he took it.

“We ended up losing this person because we were so locked into our plan for him,” she said. “The key is to be flexible and understand that with most job advancement there will be a few detours along the way.”

In the end, talent leaders are the most experienced people to identify and develop individuals for leadership. It’s only natural that these same people would also take the lead when hiring executive-level candidates and slotting them in where appropriate in succession plans.

Part 3: Three Succession Planning Myths