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Should You Tell An Employee That They Are Part of a Talent Pool For Succession?

Only if you feel like retaining them, which is an honest, if somewhat ironic answer.

 You should also tell them you like their teeth better than the others as well.

On a serious note, I think you need to tell talent they’re included in the succession plan if you have one. One of the big benefits to succession planning is retention if people know they’re on the list. Imagine the following conversation:

You: Rick just resigned.

Your CEO: Wasn’t he the next up for the controller role?

You: Yes.

CEO: Why did he leave if he knew he was up next and Pirkle (current controller) is getting ready for the stretch role in strategy?

You: Well, because we wanted to be fair and ensure that people who aren’t a part of the succession plan feel OK about themselves, we decided not to tell people who are a part of the succession plan that they are on the list.

CEO: What if I didn’t tell you you’re in danger of being fired? Would that be fair?

So, here’s the bottom line. I know there are lots of employee relations issues related to telling talent they’re a part of the succession plan, but you have to do it. You have the plan (at least partly) for them. So tell them.  It's Talent Management, Human Resources and Human Capital 101.

Don't overthink it, HR Pro...


Steve Levy

And put away your Superman cape - you don't have special powers, ESP, or the ability to read between the lines on a resume. You'll never sit at the table if you continue to behave this way...

jessica lee - FOT

so here's a twist on the question - how public can it/should it be that the person is in the talent pool for succession? like if you had a high-po program for the next gen of leaders... should that program be public for others to know who's in it or not? is it a badge of honor to be one of the elite in a program? curious as to what you'd say...


I agree KD.
Employees on "the list" or otherwise flagged as HiPo should absolutely be made aware. I don't think that information should be public knowledge though...

Sean Conrad

Good post KD.

If you normally don't tell employees if they are in a talent pool - you are not doing succession planning. The benefits from talent pool based succession (including retention as you mention) come from actively developing talent to get them ready to fill future roles - and again these require the talent to know and be part of the process.

If you don't tell the talent - you are not really doing succession planning. I think of that kind of "succession" planning as the "what if VP get's hit by a bus" plan. Just because you have something with names on it you call a "succession plan" doesn't mean you are actually doing any planning. These replacement plans are only good to check the box because the board says you have to have one, but the organization isn't going to get the benefits of real succession management.

HR Pros - are you really doing succession planning, or do you just have a replacement plan?

@Jessica - I think you can get great benefits from succession management for both employees and the organization without making it public. I work for a vendor, and I don't think I've heard anybody ask for that yet. In most organizations I don't think the culture would be ready for it. Great question and I look forward to what HR Pros have to say about it.

Can a company that has an affirmative action plan have succession planning? Our company is forced to use affirmative action in our hiring and selection and I'm wondering how this would work with Succession Planning?

payroll software

I think you need to tell talent they’re included in the succession plan if you have one. One of the big benefits to succession planning is retention if people know they’re on the list.


So here's the counterpoint conversation:

Succesion track ee: Ok team, I'm leaving my desk for the next 3 hours to attend the special accelerated leaader training for special potential people.

EE2: WTF? I didn't get to apply. When was the memo?

Succession EE: You don't apply. It's like Protestant grace, you can't earn it, it has to be bestowed upon you. But keep working hard anyway.

EE3: I work twice as hard as you and I'm dying for an opportunity to move up.

EE2: I'm calling our manager
EE3: I'm sending out resumes

Succession EE: Hmmm, they said this would be good for retention.

Now, which chapter of any succession planning book teaches managers how to handle that conversation. I'm not in favor of keeping it secret, I'm just saying I understand.

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