As organizations continue to establish a new norm for recruiting, retaining and engaging talent, the best companies are mindful of the benefits of intentional succession planning. These organizations understand that while their counterparts are busy facilitating replacement planning processes, their most competitive advantage stems from strategic talent management that supports both the current and future needs of the business. More importantly, these organizations understand that when their leadership teams are diverse in thought, skill and culture, the organization is best positioned to innovate new products and services, dominate their competitive landscape, and reinvigorate organizational talent to exceed performance expectations.

This diversity is not an afterthought. It is intentional and begins with carefully crafted career paths that are inclusive of both the needs of the business and talent. Here are three key steps to begin the process of inclusive succession planning.

1. Identify Critical Leadership Roles

When succession planning is facilitated appropriately, an organization should never experience a leadership drought in its most critical roles.

Identifying critical leadership roles begins with removing subjective recruitment and selection practices. When roles and responsibilities are built to include competencies and proficiency levels that clearly prepares the individual for what they are expected to deliver, then the organization can objectively convey expectations without projecting their personal perspective on the individual’s performance before any results are produced.

2. Engage Your High-potential Diverse Talent

Despite the shift in employee career preferences, engaging high-potential and high-performing employees remains at the top of the list of organizational challenges. Without intentional strategies to engage these individuals throughout various phases of the employee life cycle, organizations continue to run the risk of losing their most valuable employees. This oversight typically occurs in one of the following ways:

  • Managers overlook this population of employees for high-visibility projects.
  • Companies don’t consider the skills gaps of this population and the access and/or resources they need to close these skills gaps.
  • The job expectations for this population are more rigorous than those established for their peers.

To overcome these barriers, the organization may need to re-evaluate how talent reviews are facilitated, specifically for critical roles. If the employee has long-standing tenure with the organization and has never been considered for career advancement, the organization should be questioning this norm.

3. Create the Path for Advancement

Companies that design intentional career paths for advancement reap the benefit of longer tenured and engaged employees. The career pathing process acknowledges that employees may shift interest from their original hired role to something that appeals to them at different stages in their career. It affirms the organization’s ability to meet those changing needs amidst other business priorities.

When employees can see opportunities for lateral or upward career growth, they are likely to stay with the company, even when other opportunities are more tempting. While the benefit is clear, some companies cringe at the very thought of the work and attention to detail required.

Career pathing requires the company to define what success looks like at every point in transition. Determining competitive salary ranges, education requirements, experience levels and tenure expectations are all important factors to consider. While most companies might see this as a critical consulting experience, others may choose to engage teams to work through career pathing as a collaborative project. The most important aspect of career pathing is to ensure access points are inclusive to support the current employee population.

Adopting these three essential perspectives is a huge step toward incorporating diversity and inclusion into intentional succession planning.