As a part of your overall strategic planning, this 5-step process for planning and succession management will help home offices conduct a gap analysis to identify key assets that present a higher risk of loss.
Step 1: Identify Your Key Assets
Key assets are the focus of your succession planning and management efforts. For example, succession planning activities may be geared to developing talent for certain assets which present the greater risk or impact of loss. Or you may focus your efforts on your talent pool (e.g. financial planning advisors, crop insurance producers).
Key assets are those agents and advisors that, without them, the organization would be unable to effectively achieve its business objectives.
Executives and managers need to play a primary role in identifying key assets and gaps in your talent pool because they are linked to the operational activities and strategic objectives of the organization. However, your talent acquisition and recruitment teams can play a supportive role by providing criteria to help managers.
TIP: Review your key assets periodically because they may change over time.
Step 2: Identify Capabilities for Key Assets and Talent Pools
It is important to identify the capabilities needed for key assets and talent pools so that it can guide the development plans for your existing bench strength while curating external talent requisitions. These capabilities may even serve as the basis for self-assessment tools. Moreover, knowing the required capabilities is necessary for setting clear performance expectations, assessing performance, and for selection purposes. Many home offices already have existing offline tools that help measure capabilities utilizing competency profiles or knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) tools.
Whether your organization uses KSAs or competency profiles, it's important to incorporate capabilities for key assets and talent pool deficiencies into strategies for succession planning and management. This practice will allow you to better assess gaps and focus your development efforts.
Step 3: Identify Existing Talent Pool Against Capabilities
The main purpose of this step is to identify which individuals are interested in and have the potential to fill key assets or to discover talent pool deficiencies so that you can support them in acquiring the skills and competencies they need to fill the gaps when the opportunities become available.
If your organization is considering a more formal process of identifying internal talent for accelerated development, be mindful to manage expectations to avoid the presumption of guaranteed transitions and to not alienate those not selected.
It is important to inform your internal candidates who are not initially considered for accelerated development that they can be considered in the future with further career development or that there are alternative opportunities.
TIP: In order to minimize subjectivity, use multiple ways of assessing employees and include multiple perspectives, especially the perspective of agents or advisors who've built these books of business.
Step 4: Engage Your Talent Pool
Whether they are your top performing key assets or up and coming producers it is critical that you engage them in the succession planning and management process.
In this step, you must identify ways to determine what the interests are of your distribution and create opportunities for them to discover these opportunities internally within your network.
Examples might be continuing education sessions focused on providing content and stimulating discourse focused on certain key asset cohorts. Ask them probing questions regarding their life goals. After you've conducted that assessment, provide coaching.
Ultimately, you want to be able to use this data to bring your talent pool together to facilitate a future transition or putting in place a systematic growth plan.
Step 5: Develop and implement succession and transition plans
Research has shown that experience-based learning is more effective than classroom training in preparing potential candidates to fill future talent gaps or succeed key assets practices. It is important to incorporate strategies for learning, training and development, and transfer of specific home office knowledge into your succession planning and management.
Strategies for learning, training, and development could include mentoring and coaching opportunities for agents and advisors to obtain ongoing guidance and support from more experienced talent. These arrangements don't necessarily have to be formal.
Providing unique case assignments can be an opportunity for junior producers to get experience at a more senior level by having them partner with a senior producer. Orphan policies are an excellent opportunity to deploy this strategy and provides a mutual benefit to both producers.
Explicit knowledge and tactical knowledge are different and require different strategies than the above. It's important to incorporate formal practice management education that involves strategies that include interpersonal interactions, product knowledge, and skills development in areas that support the producer and are filling gaps in specific areas of your talent pool.