We’re delighted that this blog post has been written by Chris Voller, Claims Director at AXA Insurance, sharing his personal expertise of senior succession planning. We love its honesty and practical nature.

Bringing Development for Succession to Life in a Corporate Environment – 5 top tips

Despite very best intentions, succession planning can often become a tick box exercise in the corporate world. Filling out the right forms and getting them into HR on time will normally be enough to keep you out of trouble.

As senior managers one of our greatest responsibilities is developing individuals over time to take future places in the senior team is. If one of your resolutions for the new year is to start making your senior succession planning more meaningful here are a few lessons from my 2014 that might help you bring that to life.

1. If you are getting personally involved because you think you should rather than because you want to, then find someone else to drive it.

This is a labour of love so it really needs to mean something personal to you if you are to succeed. If it’s not your bag that’s ok, just find somebody in your organisation who will love doing it and support them to drive it.

2. Keep it quiet at first, don’t tell HR!

HR think they know about this sort of stuff and should own it. They usually run development programmes but this is not nearly enough on its own. If you tell them first they will believe they should own it and try to apply their standard approach. This won’t work and will get in the way. Best to just get on with it yourself and then gradually build up support in HR once you’ve got sufficient business support for it to be too late to stop it.

3. Ask your senior managers for the key competences that are important to be successful around the top table.

This will help you focus your trainees on what they won’t easily find in the company programmes but these are the things that your senior managers believe really make the difference in their role and will drive you towards lesson 4. You’ll probably find the majority of these in the tactical & mental sections of the performance pie.

4. You will maximise development when people do stuff not just think about doing stuff.

Developing competencies ‘in role’ for a future senior role is really hard. Doing the theory is a start but it just doesn’t boost your learning curve like being supported doing it as part of your day job. Identify their major development needs then move people to different roles, sideways sometimes, to fast track their learning. If needed, move other people temporarily out of the way.

5. Finally, share stuff you are working on with them.

Share with your trainee group all but the most confidential stuff you do. Experience suggests that some amazing insights can come from seeing the email traffic you have with people you interact with and how to deal with them.

Good luck.