Workforce Planning

Succession Planning Around Fast-Changing Skills

6 scenarios where data can solve skill challenges and keep future successors agile

July 2, 2024
3-minute read

Successful succession planning isn’t a once-and-done process. It's ongoing and changes with every tech advancement, demographic shift, and evolving skill.

Because as workforce dynamics shift, so do expectations for future leaders and key talent in critical roles. Today’s succession planning needs to be more inclusive, tech-driven, and focused on cultivating diverse and agile talent to navigate whatever challenges organizations must face.

Of course, this is easier said than done. But by leveraging data analytics for in-depth skill analysis, organizations can adapt succession plans to better prepare for what lies ahead.

How to Rethink Succession Planning

Rapidly changing skills are forcing organizations to rethink their succession planning strategies to ensure they have the right talent in place to fill key roles in the future. Effective succession planning, part of overall workforce planning, can help organizations reduce the risk of vacancies, improve employee engagement and retention, and enhance overall organizational performance.  

Fast-moving changes, however, make the modern succession planning process more complicated than in the past. It needs to account for an organization's short and long-term strategy, areas of growth, talent management, and leadership development strategies and processes.

It also needs to account for the latest skill and talent trends based on global labor market data.

Here are a few scenarios on how to handle data-driven succession planning with skills in mind.

Challenge: Declining skills

Rapid tech advancements across industries threaten to render some existing skills obsolete.

Solution: Continuous skills assessment

Ongoing analysis will reveal potential gaps within existing workforces and help HR teams focus on skills that are on the rise rather than declining. Comparing the capabilities of potential successors against skill market trends also informs mentorship programs that will preserve critical skills and expertise for the next generation. This succession planning approach helps bridge skill gaps and ensure the preservation of institutional knowledge.

Challenge: Uncertain future skills

Predict the skills and competencies that critical roles — some of which might not exist yet — will require in the future.

Solution: Trend analysis and expert insights

Following skill trends in the market, using both real-time and historical data, provides visibility of  potential future skill demands. Tracking new and emerging skills, as well as those that are declining, allows organizations to make data-backed decisions on what they’ll need from successors. Collaboration with industry experts, thought leaders, and professional networks, too, yields insights that will drive succession planning strategies with external perspectives.

Challenge: Talent scarcity

Equip successors with requisite and emerging skills that are in high demand throughout a competitive market.

Solution: Build a pipeline of skilled talent

Keeping an eye on the talent trends will guide skill strategy in succession planning more effectively than just guessing. By understanding skill evolutions based on market data, organizations can nurture high-potential employees with tailored development opportunities. Targeted training programs and rotational assignments give potential successors diverse experiences to develop skills organizations will need in the future.

Challenge: Steeper learning curves

The time and effort needed to upskill/reskill could impact the readiness of potential successors.

Solution: Personalized, data-driven development plans

Create personalized development plans for potential successors, tailored to their existing skill sets, to learn skills critical for future roles. These data-driven plans should include targeted training, mentoring, microlearning, and experiential learning opportunities.  

Challenge: Retention challenges

Prevent high-potential employees with in-demand skills from leaving the organization.  

Solution: Provide opportunities for advancement, recognition

Outlining clear paths for advancement, skill development, and opportunities for growth within the organization helps retain high-potential employees and keep succession plans on track. It’s also important to instill a sense of value and belonging by acknowledging the contributions of high-potential employees and showcasing their impact on the organization's success.

Challenge: Effectively leveraging data and analytics

Gain actionable insights on skill trends, succession readiness, and talent mobility from global labor market data.

Solution: Enrich internal metrics with external labor market data

A comprehensive talent inventory — including employee information such as skills, competencies, performance evaluations, and career aspirations — is the foundation for succession planning analytics. Adding external global market data to the mix, however, provides greater insights for skills gap analysis, identifying current and future skill requirements for key roles. This analysis can inform targeted training and development initiatives needed for succession plans.

Preparing Future-Ready Talent with Succession Planning

By recognizing the impact of rapidly evolving skill sets and rethinking traditional approaches to succession planning, organizations can proactively identify and develop the next generation of critical talent.  

Embracing flexibility, prioritizing talent development, and aligning succession strategies with evolving business needs will be key to success. And as the skills evolve, a forward-thinking approach to succession planning will empower organizations to adapt, innovate, and ensure a steady pipeline of capable talent for the future.