This issue of Training Industry Magazine focuses on the various strategies that support a robust succession planning strategy for learning-centric organizations. I see the focus on skills gaps or potentially even performance gap remediation solutions at the heart of a great learning and development (L&D) team’s strategic focus.

Understanding the role L&D should play in succession planning is similar to the analysis that any good manufacturing leader goes through when deciding whether to “make or buy” a product or service. “Make” would suggest the product is developed in-house by your own team and resources and assumes you have the capability and means to develop the product. It also assumes that the version you will make is current with competing products in the marketplace, and controlling the development of the product is integral to its success. (Think Apple operating system in the PC world.)

If the analysis sways you to “buy,” then this suggests that there is a competing or existing product or service that you could buy now (or when you need it) that will meet the needs of your customers when incorporated into your go-to-market product or solution. Of course, that is a simplification of the analysis, and you could consider many related factors in the decision, but I believe it illustrates the role of L&D versus recruiting in a company’s overall succession planning strategy.

If an organization decides to “make” or develop successors for certain roles inside the organization, they must ensure they have the ability to develop people who will match or hopefully exceed the performance capabilities of those candidates available in the market. The challenge for L&D is not only to develop successors for key roles according to the current operating expectations for the position, but also to consider the movement in the market and develop successors beyond the role’s current incumbent’s skill set to ensure the company keeps pace with the marketplace. That suggests we should be very diligent and limit the number of roles to very strategic ones when we step up to that challenge.

As we believe at Training Industry, training isn’t the solution to every business problem. Similarly, developing people (make) to fill a succession funnel for every role in the organization isn’t a viable business strategy, so recruiting for roles (buy) where the market is generating great candidates may ultimately be the best strategy.

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts about the perspectives shared in the magazine, and please feel free to send along any suggestion for future editions of Training Industry Magazine to consider.

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