A Hierarchy of Applications

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Researching secondary information is the first, and lowest, level of online and

high-tech applications for SP&M. You can use the Web—or your organization’s

human resource information systems (HRIS)—to collect and analyze information

that is readily available. Use secondary information of this kind to look for

articles, books, or Web sites about best practices and research on succession

issues. Surf the Web, using search engines or metasearch engines (see a full

list of metasearch engines at www.searchiq.com/directory/multi.htm), around

key words or phrases linked to succession planning. Conduct analyses of your

organization’s workforce using your organizational HR information system

about such important issues as the ages of your workers at various levels (executive,

managerial, professional, and technical) and their projected retirement

ages, their racial or gender composition, performance ratings, turnover rates,

absenteeism, and other information. Try to use this information to answer

such questions as these:

Exhibit 12-3. A Hierarchy of Online and High-Tech Applications for

Succession Planning and Management

Interactive

and

Multimedia

Distribution

and Delivery

Policy Formulation

Original Data Collection for

Policy Formulation

Benchmarking/Comparison-Making

with Other Organizations

Document Distribution

Document Storage and Retrieval

Researching Secondary Information

How many people exist at each level of the organization and in each

important occupational or hierarchical grouping?

When are those people expected to retire?

What percentage of those people fall into protected labor classes?

What is the turnover rate by level?

What is the critical turnover rate by level?

How well are people performing?

How many potential candidates for succession exist at each level, and

how many potential candidates may be needed to exist to support the

organization’s expected growth?

Using Technology to Support Succession Planning and Management Programs 279

In each case, these questions involve analysis of existing information. This is

the lowest level of the hierarchy of applications, and it is also the easiest to

use, provided that the necessary records exist and can be manipulated in ways

permitting analysis.

Document storage and retrieval is the second level of the hierarchy. Online

methods are often useful for storing and retrieving documents important

to SP&M such as job descriptions, competency models, value statements, performance

appraisal forms, potential assessments, and replacement charts. As

organizations move toward realizing the promise of the paperless office, document

storage and retrieval becomes more important. Document imaging permits

hard copy to be scanned and kept electronically.

Document distribution is the third level of the hierarchy. This level adds

interactivity and permits SP&M coordinators to place documents online. For

instance, from company Web sites, users can download documents such as

job descriptions, job analysis questionnaires or interview guides, competency

models, performance appraisal forms, individual potential assessment forms,

individual development plans, and even training for advancement. Additionally,

users may even complete the forms online and send them to SP&M coordinators

so that the transactions are paperless. Data can then be analyzed

directly online. (That also improves data security.)

Benchmarking is the fourth level of the hierarchy. While the third level

permits document distribution and analysis within an organization, benchmarking

permits information sharing among organizations. For instance, a

succession planning coordinator in one organization can send electronic questionnaires—

or even sample documents, such as succession planning policies—

to consultants, college professors, or SP&M coordinators in other

organizations. That permits easy comparisons and discussions of important

issues across organizations.

Original data collection for policy formulation is the fifth level of the

hierarchy. Using online survey software, for instance, SP&M coordinators can

poll managers, workers, and other stakeholders about emerging problems that

affect succession planning. For instance, an attitude survey could be conducted

periodically online to gather information about employee job satisfaction

(which can affect or even help to predict turnover rates), attitudes about

existing succession practices, and other relevant issues. This information is

valuable in formulating new policies or revising existing policies.

Policy formulation is the sixth level of the hierarchy. Decision-makers can

use groupware—software that links individuals virtually for decision making

in real time—to formulate new policies on issues affecting SP&M. For instance,

during policy formulation, decision-makers can work together on virtual teams

to establish a new or revised succession policy, devise a competency model,

prepare a job description, plan training to close developmental gaps, carry out

potential assessment or performance appraisal, or offer confidential advice on

a difficult succession issue.

Using Technology to Support Succession Planning and Management Programs 280

Interactive and multimedia distribution and delivery is the seventh and

highest level of the hierarchy. This is usually the most complex, and often

the most expensive, to create. It includes multimedia training prepared and

delivered over the Web or over a company intranet. It also includes CD-ROMbased

training designed to build competencies to prepare people for advancement

and other high-tech methods, such as desktop video, that can link decision-

makers in discussions about individual development or about SP&M

policy issues.

Use the worksheet in Exhibit 12-4 to brainstorm when and how to use

online and high-tech methods according to the hierarchy of applications described

in this section.