Keys to Building a Winning Bench

Business continuity and risk management demand that companies make succession planning a priority, says a new report by DHR Global. “Long-term succession planning is a strategic, ongoing initiative of building your bench – a lineup of leaders-to-be – through talent development, training, and recruiting,” said the study.

February 15, 2023 – In sports, winning teams have the right players at every position to take on challenges, overcome circumstances, and move forward with consistency, focus, and confidence. The same formula applies in business. Just as star players switch teams or eventually retire, business leaders move on, too. Who will step up to lead the way?

Ideally, you will have identified, prepared, and empowered team members to emerge from being role players into leaders without missing a beat, whether the transition is expected or abrupt.

Succession planning is crucial for business continuity and risk management, says a newly released report from DHR Global’s Christine GreybeMaryanne Wanca-Thibault, Jonathan Hoyt, and Nina Chatrath. “It’s not just the act of naming a new CEO or hiring a manager,” the report said. “To call it a game plan would be somewhat misleading, as that implies an immediate time frame. Long-term succession planning is a strategic, ongoing initiative of building your bench – a lineup of leaders-to-be – through talent development, training, and recruiting.”


The DHR report provides insights on what positioning your organization for success in the future looks like in the present:

Deliberate Career Development

Advancement in your company is as vague or defined as you make it, according to the DHR report. “The latter is better for succession planning because clear paths to leadership positions align employees’ wants with their companies’ needs,” said the study. “In contrast, the fuzzy opportunity to move up leaves many unanswered questions for all parties. When you’re developing someone for a specific role, you can measure and reward performance more effectively.”

Related: How HR Can Help Build the Organization of the Future  

The DHR report says that the employee, for his or her part, knows what the goal is and has a stronger sense of purpose, progression, and trajectory, without having to look elsewhere for a rewarding job. The individual is aware of “what’s in it for them” and it ties in with what matters to you.

Targeted Talent Reviews

For decades, leadership teams have used talent reviews to discuss and determine promotions. “These closed-door meetings are still useful today, but in fast-growing companies and rapidly evolving industries, the purpose of the talent review has changed,” DHR said. “Instead of taking a companywide approach and establishing a track for every employee, organizations are focusing on a handful of important leadership roles and reverse engineering their personnel, talent pipeline, and recruitment to identify and invest in the right people for those roles. In the process, it becomes clear which positions are most critical to a company’s success. Those are the positions to prioritize when building your bench.”

Objective Success Profiles

A well-written success profile for a given leadership role can provide helpful guidance for succession planning by reducing the inherent subjectivity in talent reviews, says the DHR report. “Too often, managers are rating employees on intangibles rather than objectively evaluating their potential to advance,” the firm said. “Success profiles provide the framework to match core competencies and behaviors with dedicated responsibilities that help the company succeed, which can help streamline the talent search. Specificity and objectivity are a powerful combination for any organization that wants to mold the leaders of tomorrow.”

A New Perspective of Potential

DHR also says that high performance and high potential are not always one and the same. “An employee’s performance confirms their ability to fulfill their current role, while their potential suggests their capability to excel in a larger role,” the report said. “With dramatic shifts in the way people work and teams collaborate, some traditional indicators of high potential, such as agility, are now baseline qualifications across the board.”

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Other qualities, such as empathy, have emerged to redefine leadership. “In the context of succession planning, high potential is no longer a search to replicate a predecessor’s skills,” DHR said. “It’s a chance to consider how emerging leaders’ unique skills and diverse backgrounds will not just sustain, but shape, a company’s future.”

Commitment and Balance

Where is your business headed? What skills do you need? Do you have the key players who are poised to become leaders? “These questions can create even more questions before you ultimately arrive at answers,” the DHR report said. “Those answers may lead to internal promotions, new hires, or both. In any event, succession planning takes serious time, effort, and resources, leading many companies to leave it on the to-do list for years while dealing with day-to-day concerns.”

Related: How to Build an Inclusive Company Culture

DHR notes that identifying even a small handful of future leaders can be a large and time-consuming project. “That’s why many companies look to an executive search and consulting firm to provide the tools, programs, insights, and top candidates that enable organizational and succession planning success,” the firm said.

Experienced Recruiters

Since 1989, DHR Global has been a leading, privately held provider of executive search solutions with more than 50 wholly owned offices spanning the globe. The firm’s consultants specialize in all industries and functions, providing senior-level executive search, management assessment, and succession planning services.

As president of DHR Leadership Consulting, Ms. Greybe leads a global team of consultants who help organizations identify and develop executives who are ready to take on high-stakes, high-pressure, and high-complexity decisions. As an executive search consultant, she helps public and private companies recruit leaders across the C-suite and board and key functional roles. Ms. Greybe joined DHR in 2004 as managing director of Asia-Pacific and has held roles of increasing corporate responsibility, including as a member of the board of directors, president, and head of global. Her services include assessment and coaching, succession planning, team effectiveness, onboarding, and DEI.

Mr. Hoyt, a partner in leadership consulting, helps clients improve performance through executive coaching, succession planning, talent assessment and organization design. He has spent the last 20 years helping organizations create the leadership capability they need in times of rapid growth and change. His clients have included private equity, technology, financial services, natural resources, professional services, non-profit, and healthcare organizations around the world.

Ms. Wanca-Thibault has more than 30 years of experience as a consultant and advisor in the areas of leadership assessment, organizational development, and executive coaching. As a partner of DHR Leadership Consulting, she helps clients assess fit for executive, C-suite, and board positions. Her focus on the people side of the organization comes from a deep interest in organizational behavior, communication, and helping professionals maximize performance.

Ms. Chatrath, a partner in leadership consulting, specializes in succession planning, creating robust leadership pipelines, and leadership talent benchmarking. She has conducted change management interventions spanning the top tier of leadership and helped to cascade these across the organization. Ms. Chatrath has expertise creating innovative behavioral-based development initiatives for leaders and assessment projects evaluating executives’ behavior to increase motivation and engagement.

Related: Hiring Top Talent in Unprecedented Times

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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