Succession Planning and the Talent Management Toolbox

Succession Planning and the Talent Management Toolbox

Katherine Simpson (American University Library, USA) and Patricia J. West (George Mason University Library, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5812-7.ch006


This chapter defines succession planning as a key component of talent management and explains its relevance for academic libraries. With a combination of unique human capital challenges and the current higher education environment, academic libraries are now facing risks that require special considerations as they plan for the future. In this chapter, the authors define talent management and succession planning and review the major models that are currently in use. They then discuss the “decision-science” framework, which they propose is best suited for addressing future talent needs in academic libraries. Such elements as resources and processes, organization and talent, and sustainable strategic success are highlighted as avenues to linking overall decisions around impact, effectiveness, and efficiency. The final aspect of the chapter includes techniques for developing the talent pipeline, identifying “pivotal” positions, and developing strategies and practices. Assessing progress against talent management goals, including identifying specific metrics, is also outlined.
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Why Talent Matters

In their book The Talent-Powered Organization, Cheese and his co-authors (2008) note that “talent has become the single most important force for creating strategic value for your organization.” This represents a huge paradigm shift of the past 30 years. Formerly, in an industrial economy, the value lay in physical assets; today these matter much less; it is the people, knowledge and systems that make a greater impact on the success of an organization--“talent and brainpower are now the predominant currency.”

In response to the need to develop talent within the academic library, some have undertaken succession planning programs in order to alleviate future staffing concerns and provide continuity of operations and development opportunities for “high-potential” employees. Hiring internally is seen as cheaper, faster, and less disruptive to operations. For libraries, there is concern that without succession planning, the profession itself will die out as administrations replace library leaders with others from the academy due to a dearth in ready successors (Galbraith et al., 2011). The danger is in seeing succession planning as the only tool in the talent management toolbox, and applying it to situations that would benefit from another approach.

The elements of a good succession plan require that an organization project future needs for leaders, assess which “high-potential” employees would most likely be successful, and provide development opportunities so that those employees can acquire the core competencies identified for those leadership positions (Huang, 2001). But research from the business world shows that many organizations are not getting the desired outcomes (AMA Enterprise, 2011). And hence many organizations are losing talent--and valuable opportunities--as a result.

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