Thursday, November 14, 2019
Monday, 19 November 2012 13:41

How Can We Anchor Leadership Development & Succession Planning to Competencies?

Written by Erica Bader Sorrell, MBA SPHR

Succession planning and leadership development programs are often linked in an organization. At least in the best-case scenario, they should be. When organizations identify high-performance talent and develop programs designed to build skills for these next generation leaders, companies are better able to adapt to changing business demands. Companies that anchor these development programs to a competency model have a much more holistic approach to training and can ensure that leaders are developing the skills they really need to move their organization forward and sustain their business into the future. How Can We Anchor Leadership Development & Succession Planning to Competencies?

Competency-based leadership development programs link back to a defined set of skills and behaviors needed within an organization. Leaders who spend time identifying competencies that are important to the success of the company benefit. Once these competencies have been identified, the training and development team can build programming to develop these skills. Unfortunately many organizations decide to pursue leadership development without first identifying the skills and experience needed for the organization as a whole or the positions they are targeting. In the absence of identifying the bigger goals and pain points within a company, managers request training on topics like “communication” and “team building,” and the training team is left to do the best they can with generic requests. A competency model provides focus to the training in an organization. While there will always be some training needed for individuals or certain departments, a competency model ensures that the major training initiatives support the future direction of the organization.

Obviously the first step in this process is to identify the key competencies needed for an organization. This can be done through conversations with leaders about what skills make the company successful currently and what they believe will be needed in the future. Some organizations have a full-blown competency model that is robust and comprehensive while others have a set of competencies that have been identified. There are tools that define a standard set of competencies that can be administered as a sort of organizational assessment. All of these methods have value and can be useful for an organization. Regardless of the method of arriving at the competencies, having them is the first step.

Once the competencies have been identified, they become the foundation for the major programming in the company. As the training team builds a program, the components of such a program should relate directly back to the identified goals. The learning outcomes for the program should include building the skills associated with those competencies. The training team can accomplish this by building a large program with multiple components or by building smaller programs designed to focus on the competencies one at a time. At this point, it is important to look at the design of the program and ensure that it supports the development needs of the company and consider the delivery methods that will best support the learning.

To complete the cycle, an organization can then create their performance management system to align with the competencies. Managers and leaders can then be evaluated and measured on their ability to perform the competencies. The training and development program supports the performance management by ensuring that the company is building these skills and the two reinforce one another.

The development of a competency model and a subsequent training programming supports succession planning by allowing an organization to understand the skills it will need in the future and train to those skills. As high-potential employees are put through the training programs, they are building the skills needed to drive the organization forward. With the inclusion of the performance management system, these individuals are now evaluated on their ability to perform across pre-defined skills. The company has individuals who have been trained and incented to perform to these competencies and who then are ready to step into leadership roles as the business grows or current leaders leave the company.

Erica Bader Sorrell, MBA, SPHR serves as the Executive Director of Management and Executive Education at the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..