Talent Assessment and Succession Planning

Historically, how we’ve selected future leaders has been all over the map, leaning toward sheer guesswork rather than a well planned, systemic approach. That’s why talent assessments and succession planning processes go hand in hand. Validated assessment data related to key competencies required for long term success provides the insights you need to select and develop the next generation of leaders.

Assessment data collected across an employee lifecycle accumulates to tell a story that evolves with the employee. The viewpoint provided by reliable and accurate data gathered over time helps your organization draw a clear picture of their potential and progress towards emerging as the next generation of leadership. All of it can inform your succession planning programs from A to Z.

Similarly, data from pre-hire assessments, assessments for personal development planning and leadership development assessments can be used as strategic elements of a well-rounded assessment program to identify and develop your company’s next leaders. It adds up an approach where decisions are guided by information and facts, not instincts and feelings.

Here’s how to link talent assessments and succession planning at every stage across the employee lifecycle.

Identify Potential Leaders

The first stage of using talent assessments for succession planning is identifying potential leaders from among your early career talent. At this point, you’re broadly recognizing the talent you need to build your organization.

Ideally, the process begins before an employee even starts on the job: Data from pre-hire assessments can provide a signal that helps identify who your potential leaders are. Unfortunately, most companies don’t follow this approach, instead leaving mountains of valid data collected during pre-hire assessments to die on the vine.

This can be a major missed opportunity to identify high-potential leadership candidates, as demonstrated by companies who are leveraging pre-hire data effectively for their future workforce planning. Prudential Financial, for example, consolidates assessment data collected across the employee life cycle to better understand the workforce’s skills and capabilities.

It’s true pre-hire and early career assessments mostly measure basic abilities. However, many basic assessments offer very high-level leadership indicators you can incorporate to identify potential leaders.

One strategy to determine potential leadership qualities for your company involves using archival data to develop a sense of what historic assessment data looks like for those who have gone on to be successful leaders. When overlaid on the competencies measured by pre-hire assessments you can leverage this data to fortify your existing assessments.

Develop Emerging Leaders

Across the employee life-cycle, some employees will stand out. They emerge as leaders during the course of their work or otherwise display significant potential. Additional assessments for development and career pathing within the organization can identify employees who show the most promise as leaders, and who make the best candidates for leadership development programs.

At this stage, there is value in using assessments to help feed your high-potential program. There are a variety of assessments that are ideally suited for this stage of succession planning, including behavioral and personality tests keyed to your leadership model as well as assessment centers, and bespoke assessments. In general, the goal is to utilize assessments that link the traits of high-potential employees to your firm’s leadership model.

Assessment data needs to be tethered to leadership training and development. Otherwise, it is purposeless. Be sure to hook assessment results to formal career pathing, coaching and development programs. With specific qualities identified, you can create better bespoke development programs to help each emerging leader prepare for their leadership role.

Fortify Evolving Leaders

As they progress through the ranks, evolving leaders should continue being actively developed via clearly defined succession plans. These are leadership candidates who have benefited from development at earlier stages and now require more targeted programs to prepare them for next steps. Talent assessments can be used to identify each individual’s evolving strengths and weaknesses, which can then be specifically addressed in the ongoing development programs.

In this phase, assessment centers and individual assessments can hone in on leadership qualities. The goal is to fortify an evolving leader’s best traits while working through potential weaknesses and derailers. Their strengths should be strengthened, just as weaknesses that might undermine their leadership abilities should be recognized and ideally corrected.

As noted, assessment data must be connected to ongoing coaching and development programs. DDI World’s 2021 Global Leadership Forecast Report lists assessments as one of the preferred components of leadership training and development, a testament to their value.

Effectively using talent assessments for succession planning requires a coordinated effort anchored by your leadership model, with the necessary infrastructure to collect and analyze data over time – starting in the pre-hire stage. Dedicating the needed resources to data-based succession planning helps you select the right people to lead your organization forward, as you replace opinion with an organized approach.