Competent leadership lies at the heart of every successful organization. That said, strong leaders don’t appear out of thin air. While some individuals display a propensity for leadership at an early stage, their skills must be honed and directed towards the business’s long-term goals. When properly managed, a company’s top talent paves the way for its future, taking over roles left vacant by previous leaders who have moved on – two terms describe this larger process: talent development and succession planning. But while these concepts are closely related, they’re not one in the same. Understanding the similarities and differences between these two processes will help you figure out how to approach the ongoing development of your leadership team.
What Is Talent Development?
Put simply, talent development (also dubbed talent management) refers to an organization’s various processes dedicated to the assessment and advancement of their most promising employees. This process begins at the recruitment and hiring stages, wherein existing leaders seek the best candidates for particular roles. Once a new hire is on board, efforts must be made to retain this talent, especially in a highly competitive market. Talent retention and leadership development go hand in hand – when employees are incentivized to grow within an organization, they’re more likely to stick with it. There’s always a risk associated with talent development, of course, as this process also makes your employees more attractive to other employers. Generally speaking, the potential benefits of continuous talent development and management outweigh the risks.
Whereas talent development takes a close look at individuals, succession planning first takes a close look at specific roles. Once key roles have been identified, current leaders must consider which qualities are required for filling said roles when they become vacant, and which employees are prime candidates (internal or external) for taking on these responsibilities when the time comes. If you’re wondering, “Why is succession planning important?” consider the pitfalls of losing a C-level leader without an adequate substitute for an extended period of time. Proper succession planning ensures that every vital position maintains strong leadership, securing the organization’s legacy.
How Talent Development and Succession Planning Interact
Succession planning and talent development are unique processes, but they’re inextricably linked. Without a thorough leadership development plan in place, you’ll have a hard time filling existing and new leadership roles in your organization. Likewise, without the incentive structure inherent in succession planning (i.e., major promotions and structural changes), your top talent may feel less motivated to grow within your company and stick around for the long haul. In other words, the best approach to both talent development and succession planning is one that understands the connection between them and facilitates a structure that cultivates leadership that propels the business forward.
Determining the Needs of Your Leadership Team and Organization
Different leaders within your organization’s leadership team will have different ambitions and needs. Budding leaders still have plenty to learn, but they also have a lot to teach their more seasoned peers. Leaders who have been around for some time might be preparing to retire, and others might be seeking employment elsewhere. Figuring out what your leadership team and your business needs requires strong communication and transparency. Leaders should promptly know when a vacancy is on the horizon and whether or not they’re in the running to take over the position. Everyone should also be kept in the loop regarding the organization’s mission and direction moving forward. And talent at all stages should continue to receive first-rate training and development to prepare them for whatever the future may hold.
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