Ensuring continuity of qualified people moving through and within an organisation is crucial to ensuring a business can keep operating smoothly.
While the term succession planning tends to elicit images of chief executives stepping down and handing roles over to successors that have been groomed for years, it refers to all levels of the organisation, and succession plans need to encompass all key skills and leadership roles.
Succession planning is about how organisations attract, retain and develop talent internally to ensure that key employees have defined career paths that will keep them in the organisation.
Pfizer HR director Doreen Nel says: “We have set up the organisation in such a way that the people processes are done by management. The line manager role is split into three key areas: building the next generation of talent, driving results and being a change manager.
“Building the next generation is a key part and involves scouting for talent externally, but also building talent to take over their own role and this includes scouting within their own teams and others teams.”
Nestlé HR director Bright Nkosi says: “Through our talent framework model we identify different talent categories and strategies of how each needs to be brought into the organisation and developed through specific and unique development roadmaps. Each function and business has a centre of excellence that helps build both functional and leadership competencies.
“It is important to emphasise that this is a partnership between the line manager, the employee and HR.
“This partnership,” he says, “serves our long-term goal of creating a sustainable employee development journey which drives business outcomes through a high performance culture supported by differentiated rewards and development; quality and transparency of career management discussions for employees; and a deeper, wider, learning agile talent pool that is geographically, culturally and gender diverse.
“The entire process is founded in a globally used Nestlé Leadership Framework, which details the requisite leadership competencies required for various levels within the organisation,” he adds.
Nel says Pfizer’s succession planning is conducted through plotting people into a six-box grid, which contains different categories of talent, and doing a fish bowl review where each leader is challenged on the reasons a person is in one grid box or another.
Once that is concluded, roles are planned accordingly. Line managers present to business unit heads and these challenge each other on their decisions.
“The chief executive overseas the process, but isn’t directly involved except where his own team is concerned,” Nel says.
Succession planning at Nestlé South Africa is closely aligned with the talent calibration and individual development process, Nkosi says.
“A pre-requisite for an effective talent assessment and succession planning process is accurate and up-to-date information in respect of strengths, development needs, career aspirations, mobility, dual career situation and individual development plans for every employee in scope.
“Each line manager therefore has a one-on-one discussion with their subordinates, utilising a global online tool as a guide. As a result of this process, succession plans are created for all key positions within the organisation.
“The latter is then validated through a management calibration process that takes place at least twice a year. Once the succession plans are confirmed, line managers are accountable to provide access to development opportunities that will ensure the identified incumbents have the requisite competencies to fulfill their new roles when this becomes due,” he says.
Key element of success
Nel says that a key success factor in Pfizer’s approach is giving managers the people process to own and drive, to have their own talent people and to present that their management who presents it up the line.
“We focus on our own development as a never-ending way of life at Pfizer and managers bear a special responsibility to develop their people by offering feedback, collaborating with colleagues on development plans and providing coaching and mentoring assistance.”
Both Pfizer and Nestlé recognise their people as key elements of their success.
Nkosi says: “Our ambition is to be the leading nutrition, health and wellness company. Talent management development is the DNA in the pursuit of our ambition. We truly believe that our employees are our best asset and we take a long-term view when developing them.”
As the global skills shortage continues to make itself felt in specialist sectors such as science and technology, organisations that are not planning for the future and developing skills are going to come short.
“We have conducted a successful Nestlé Future Talent programme for over 10 years,” says Nkosi.
“The programme is two years long, and after completion, the successful incumbents are often ready to take on junior or middle management positions.
"Nestlé also supports a number of rural schools and provides tertiary bursaries to some of these students, who then have the potential to enter the NFT programme on completion of their education.
This programme is run in conjunction with the African Leadership Academy and a small number of students — who meet the Academy’s strict requirements — enter the Academy for their two year entrepreneurial and African leadership programme and O-levels.
“In addition,” he says, “we have an active bursary scheme that targets students in scarce skill areas such as engineering, as well as learnership and apprentice programmes.
"Nestlé also uses a talent warehouse concept, which targets mid-career hires prior to a vacancy becoming available. Candidates are identified in advance, so that when a position does become available, the lead time on replacement is significantly shortened.”
Pfizer’s global recruitment strategy is geared to hiring people with specific competencies to ensure it acquires and maintains the skills it needs as a specialist pharmaceutical firm.