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The Four Tasks for Building Future Bench Strength

All organizations desire to have strong bench strength. However, in the 2023 Gartner Board of Directors Talent Survey, only 51 percent of surveyed board directors said their company has a written plan for the current CEO’s succession. Participants in the survey represented various countries and industries and is a strong example of the state of succession planning today.

Combine these survey results with the fact that the latest data from Chicago-based global outplacement and career transition firm Challenger Gray and Christmas Inc. shows that 1,261 CEOs have left their posts so far this year! This is a 41 percent increase from the 895 CEO changes during the same period in 2022.

It does not take much of a leap to theorize the state of succession planning deeper into our organizations as the “knowing-doing” gap appears to be alive and is perhaps growing wider.

Why is succession planning so difficult?

There are hurdles that organizations must navigate to get succession planning off the ground. The goal is to get best-practice approaches driven into the muscle memory of talent management processes. The root cause of these challenges varies but often includes a combination of the following:

  • Talent reviews and succession planning are never enjoyable processes for line managers. Resistance is encountered and/or minimal effort is invested.
  • Subjective nominations, while inaccurate, are often chosen as the path of least resistance.
  • The 9-box, even when well implemented, often leads to inconsistent follow-through on answering the “so what?” question.
  • Effective succession planning requires a village of various contributors to be successful and “the village” doesn’t always engage fully.
  • Talent Management professionals encounter challenges with influencing, persuading, and educating the line.
  • Inconsistent approaches are used and “cottage industries” can form inside the organization’s walls.
  • An overreliance on short-term outcomes conflicts with the need to think longer term.
  • And more…

Thankfully, there is substantial science, best practices, and proven processes you can leverage to improve succession planning. Before unpacking four tasks that you can explore to improve your efforts ask yourself the following question. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1=poor/little effort, 10=industry standard/consistent effort) what score would you give your organization’s efforts? As you review the tasks below, consider which task would help you improve your score over the next 1, 3, and 5 years.

The Four Tasks for Building Future Bench Strength

1. Use a science-based approach to verify High Potentials and High Professionals in your organization.

Effective succession planning starts with having an accurate view of who has the “ingredients” needed to take on increasing levels of scope, scale, and responsibilities over time. We know that potential remains potential if intentional development is not applied and many tools in our industry can be used. At TalentTelligent, we recommend the following.

  • Fit Appraisal – The Fit Appraisal is a pre-employment survey completed by candidates that provides indicators of potential at the point of hire.
  • R.A.N.D. Survey – The R.A.N.D. survey is completed by a manager(s) and uses the observable behaviors of our Potential Library. The outcome of this 25-minute survey is data that compares the candidate against external high-potential norms, internal candidate groups, and provides developmental insights for the next steps.
  • Potential Estimator – The Potential Estimator allows users to squeeze additional insights out of using our Leader, Manager, or Individual Contributor 360 assessment. By running the Potential Estimator report, talent leaders receive an estimation of potential based on the observable behaviors of each learner.
2. Develop High Potentials and High Professionals for the future.

Using data-driven insights from science-based tools you can now take actionable steps to aggressively develop increased capabilities. After all, potential remains potential otherwise. At TalentTelligent we recommend the following.

  • Deploy our KSA 360 assessments to the appropriate audience. This could be our 360 for Leaders, Managers/Supervisors, Individual Contributors or High Potentials. The outcomes fuel your ability to provide targeted digital development content, focused coaching efforts, and key assignments that can support accelerated growth.
  • Leverage the Digital Develop-It-Yourself (DIY) platform. By launching Digital DIY to your learners, you are providing them with ongoing development support for when other talent resources are not available, and to supplement them when they are. Within its artificial intelligence chat feature (Your Career Architect), learners can ask any question for any development effort they are undertaking and receive an evidence-based answer in a matter of seconds.
3. Position future positions using SORTi

Knowing who your high potentials or high professionals are is vital and developing them intentionally is needed. Yet, we must ask “What are we developing them towards?” We recommend profiling the positions you are developing candidates towards using a talent set approach called SORTi. By analyzing the position description, and what will be needed in the future, you can ask yourself which area of the SORTi profile will be most important to develop. Which talent set(s) will the position require?

  • S – Strategic: Typical roles include vision, mission, values, strategy, culture, dreaming
  • O – Operational: Typical roles include operator, executor, doer
  • R – Relational: Typical roles include shepherd, networker, guardian, caretaker
  • T – Technical or Functional: Typical roles include creator, quality assurance, best-in-class
  • i  – International: Typical roles include global operations
4. Sharpen the capabilities and enhance the candidates’ developmental experiences to assure successful momentum using 360 feedback with SORTi profiling as your guide.

With the right data in hand, you will need to continue to enhance candidates over time. Revisiting the SORTi profile of targeted positions against the candidate’s SORTi profile to fill gaps will be needed. Combining this process of enhancement with ongoing feedback, developmental adjustments, new assignments, and 360 feedback allows each collected insight to come to life.

The story of the knowing-doing gap in succession planning is not a new one. The statistics referenced in paragraph one was also not likely to shock you as they seem to stay consistent each year. With that in mind, we challenge you to think about where you fell on the 1 to 10 scale and make a commitment to move your efforts forward as you enter the new year, so that you can eradicate the knowing-doing gap.

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