How inclusive are your succession plans?

Sandra Kerr OBE, Business in the Community Race Equality Director explains the importance of succession planning to ensure talent is ready and prepared for the next rung of the career ladder. 


Inclusive Succession Planning is about identifying which key positions are vital to your organisation’s smooth operation and then developing the widest pools of talent so that they are ready to move into these roles, at any time, for any reason.

If you are pipelining talent to boards, executive teams or to other business critical roles, it is time to include race diversity into the succession planning process. Do your current talent feeder pools and pipelines have any diversity in them? Check with your HR function. If not, set some targets and create an action plan to capture what your organisation will do to ensure that the widest selection of talent is ready and prepared to step into key roles in the future as required.

The 2015 Race at Work survey provided us with a greater understanding of the issues around the under-representation of ethnic minorities in the workplace and at senior levels. Interest in taking part in a fast track programme is significantly higher amongst Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, jumping from 18% of white employees who would take part to 40% of BAME employees. However, this is not reflected by greater access to fast track management programmes or inclusion in succession planning for ethnic minority groups. The leadership pipeline of today needs to be populated with sufficient BAME talent to ensure that senior management of the future and workplaces reflect an increasingly diverse working-age population.

With the words 'and race' in the preface of the Financial Reporting Council's corporate governance code, it is important that employers turn their attention to ensuring there is diverse talent in their succession planning lists for senior roles and the feeder pools to these lists. Another a key recommendation for employers from the Race at Work report is to review succession planning lists for diverse talent.

It is time to increase the transparency around succession planning. We have developed a toolkit to support our member employers who may not have these important processes in place to take action. It is critical that employers make clear to their workforce the criteria, skills and abilities that are an absolute requirement in order to be considered for leadership and succession plans. That way individuals can review and identify potential gaps within their own experience and skill set that they might then choose to develop, and can initiate conversations with leaders and managers to progress this.

Succession planning is about determining who will lead your organisation into the future and we know from McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report that the more diverse the senior executive team, the better the financial results.