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Vincent Belliveau

Cornerstone OnDemand

General Manager of EMEA

Read more about Vincent Belliveau

The new succession planning


Self-service is turning traditional succession planning on its head, addressing the aspirations of high performing individuals throughout the organisation and improving business performance. 

When it comes to the risk of losing a senior executive, many organisations seek to avoid the potential disruption to business continuity and performance by identifying and grooming potential replacements. However, the CedarCrestone 2008-2009 HR Systems Survey found that the lowest sales growth is experienced by organisations which limit succession planning to top management positions. And while some HR professionals are expanding succession planning to include other mission-critical roles they still rely upon only a small pool of individuals that have been identified as having the ‘right potential.’ As a result, the majority of employees are overlooked – including those people who are high potential employees but who have not been identified as possible candidates for key positions. These individuals are likely to be ambitious and will leave an organisation if they do not believe their aspirations can be fulfilled; alternatively if they do not leave the organisation, they will then deliver less value to the organisation than they can. 

By empowering employees to develop in their existing roles and have a clearer understanding of possible career paths within the company, organisations are better able to motivate and retain top performers and future leaders.  Research from analyst firm Bersin & Associates found that there is 50 percent lower turnover among high performing employees if career and talent management systems are rolled out across the organisation.

The game-changer
A new generation of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions are enabling organisations to roll out talent management systems, integrated with powerful learning and development (L&D) capabilities, which can be used on a self-service basis, across a much larger pool of employees, if not all employees. These solutions don’t just help organisations identify skills gaps, they facilitate the closure of those gaps. Employees gain convenient access to the specifications for particular job roles and enable them to identify the additional development needs – based on their experience and current role – for them to become a prospective candidate. Furthermore, managers and employees can identify and agree on personalised training and learning programmes to help the employee advance their career in line with the organisation’s objectives.  Ultimately, the timely, comprehensive and high quality information available in this type of solution helps HR professionals and line managers to make better decisions and better identify talent.

Implementing an organisation-wide solution

Few organisations have fully mapped out all their roles and possible career paths. When rolling out an enterprise-wide solution, it is impractical to wait until every role is specified within the whole company. Instead, it is more efficient to pilot the solution with a specific population and then progressively roll it out across the organisation, expanding to include information on roles and career paths as necessary. It is also beneficial to roll out basic functionality and then enhance the system through iterative deployments. The flexibility and scalability of SaaS solutions are particularly suited to iterative deployments and mean the HR team is not taking a large, risky systems investment decision nor forcing through too much change too quickly.

It also is essential to communicate the benefits of the self-service approach and the success of pilot projects to executives and managers. They are primary stakeholders of the initiative as it becomes embedded within the organisation, so the success of the rollout is dependent upon their continued buy-in.

Of course, organisations should not just pay lip service to the concept of self service career management and employee empowerment. It must be truly integrated into core talent management processes, where the information can be leveraged to deliver real outcomes. High performing employees will identify any lack of commitment, and the initiative will lose credibility if people don’t see results.

Naturally, managers should have the ability to accept or decline requests for training from a resource or cost perspective, but employees should be empowered to upload an online CV, use the system to define their career or mobility preferences, and search for training and development opportunities that meet their career aspirations.  However, checks should be put in place to ensure that the system is used properly and information provided by the employee is valid. It is also important to manage employee expectations, as they will be able to see if they are a good fit for a particular role and will want a detailed explanation if they are passed over.

Maximising potential and performance
Organisations derive real benefit from helping employees to grow within their existing roles, understand the career paths which exist within the organisation, and identify what development is required to gain promotion or make a lateral move. Employees are more likely to stay with the organisation, function more effectively in their existing role and offer managers a wealth of talent to draw upon when they need to replace another employee or wish to grow the business. Traditional, top-down succession planning alone is not sufficient to meet the needs of organisations in a fast-moving global economy, but augmenting that discipline with systems and processes that enable bottom-up career management delivers real competitive advantage.

Vincent Belliveau is general manager of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) for Cornerstone OnDemand.

For more information on Cornerstone OnDemand, visit

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Vincent Belliveau

General Manager of EMEA

Read more from Vincent Belliveau

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