Sumit Singla

Implementing Effective And Proactive Succession Plans With Sumit Singla

No one can remain in a business position forever, as they will eventually look for other opportunities or finally retire. Despite this inevitable truth, most companies and organizations still don’t give much attention to the succession plans they are implementing. Sumit Singla leads the conversation about making this process more about individual skills and workplace cultures to secure business continuity and pursue actual professional development. He discusses why companies should be proactive in promoting people within the team than venturing outside in search of new talents. Sumit also explains how to utilize the TMA Talent Assessment to develop better succession plans and push every team member to know themselves better.

Implementing Effective And Proactive Succession Plans With Sumit Singla

Thank you so much for joining us at the mastermind of leaders dedicated to creating workplaces where people thrive, employer’s reward and customers love. If you could be a company like that, that is my personal goal with my company. You want to create a wonderful, positive environment, even though we’re talking about very serious things when we’re talking about social distancing and wearing masks. We still have to run our companies in a positive way. I’m pleased to introduce my panelists here. I am a people strategist.

I have had the absolute fortune to run and be an executive HR person, Chief HR officer. I’ve worked in HR for many years. I have lovely experience being a career coach. I also run my own company, Rocky Mountain Health Advocates. Everything that I’m doing with the People’s Strategies, I apply to my company. I’m also pleased to introduce Sam Reeve. He’s a rewards strategist, not only that, he has got amazing talent and he has a great team. He’s also helped me with my compensation in total rewards strategy. He’s the Founder of CompTeam.

As you can see with his background, some of the companies he’s worked with amazing individuals and his team rocks. That’s on Sumit Singla, he’s a people strategist as well. Organizational design, web beings, storytelling, look at the companies he’s worked with. Amazing talent. I love the fact that he’s from India. He also provides us with a bit more of the global perspective beyond the United States. He’s just been a joy. He is going to be our speaker. He’s going to be discussing Preparing Leaders for the Future and Succession Planning that Works.

We’re all going to be jumping in and out. At the end, we’re going to have open discussion and questions. Sam is going to have a little where you can decide if you’d like fifteen minutes with any one of us. It’s a poll as well as you can have a free TMA assessment. At the end, we’ll talk about what TMA is, because that is the heart and soul of focusing on that relationship coaching and having that positive coaching for your employees. When would you like to put up the poll, Sam?

We’ll put that up there a bit throughout the event here to give people the time to join. You can send us an email at [email protected]. We can send you that talent assessment, which is a neat device. With this assessment, you can learn more about yourself, what your strengths are and your talents. It’s a great conversational piece that you can have with your team. If you give this assessment to your team, it’s a great way for you to learn a little bit more about each other. What makes the TMA method assessment different from other talent assessments is that it is based on positive psychology. There are no wrong answers. It’s about your work preferences, what you enjoy, and how you can apply that to the workplace.

In these dire times, having a more positive way of coaching, as well as helping to drive performance and changing from the old method to the new is so different. What are we discussing? Again, succession management of the future.

Let’s jump into the topics. When we talk about succession planning, it sounds so exclusive and technical. What we’re talking about is development. We’re talking about developing people, getting them prepared for the future, giving them a path for growth.

More than 85% of HR leaders say that organizations have succession plans. But there is also the abysmally low number of people who say that these plans don't work. Click To Tweet

Giving people some development, you’re also giving your organization an opportunity to stay stable and make sure that any of your critical roles are not unstaffed or lying vacant. I’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with succession planning, because I love the idea of developing people. I hate to see most organizations doing such a job of it, but then I consider myself by saying that it does keep me in business. Everyone did it wonderfully well. I wouldn’t have to make that a big problem.

In my clients that I interface with and new clients that come in, I often find that succession or developing people for key roles is almost a thing of an afterthought. They don’t put my slot into that. Even some very significant mid-sized firms.

I’ve worked with firms with about 50,000 or over 160,000 and utilized a very traditional approach of the nine-block system. It is pretty fascinating that the same names kept showing up on the nine-box every year. Somebody would move the name to each box, but not realizing that they had phenomenal talent growth happening and making succession planning a year-long event. It’s not just, “It’s succession management time.” I love this side about 10% of HR leaders believe their succession program works. I’ve been one of those HR leaders where I kept, “It’s in my file here. I’ll pull it up.” Look at the names and then take them to the executive boardroom and talk about it.

Tell us more about that, Char. What are the main reasons why some of these succession plans fail at companies?

It’s pretty fascinating being the one that would sit at the executive tables that I made most of my career. The perspective from the boardroom of the talent in the workforce. No offense to certain executives, but many at the very top levels of the organization spend a lot of time in their offices talking to the top nonchalant, particularly in the bigger companies, about the talent and the workforce. It is hard when you do over 100 emails a day, you’re responding, you’re doing your reports, your productivity reports and your financials.

It’s hard to get out and talk to your staff, employees, and talent and look to the HR department to do those things. Meanwhile, the HR professionals are also slammed with hundreds of emails a day. They might not take the time to understand the front line. It’s hard because in healthcare, for HIPAA reasons, various reasons, it’s hard to get out and be in the frontline and understand how your talent is doing. Having progressive tools, we’ll talk about progressive tools, like the TMA method and other types of progressive tools to understand your employees, their passions, drives, and talents.

HR leaders are looking for new programs, but they also know that there is a budget. They can’t spend $300,000 to hire consultants to come in. No offense in it. I know you don’t charge $300,000, I assume. It’s very difficult for the HR leader to find the time to invest and come up with something new, innovative, creative, and different than just the nine-box methodology. I believe that technology is part of it as well. If you remember in the olden days, some of us are more seasoned HR people, if you recall that we used to have a profile for every one of our talents.

The problem was is, do you start from the top down or do you work from the bottom up? Oftentimes, I saw in my prior careers, we would only focus on the top, maybe 10% of leaders in the big companies. We would not look at the directors, managers, supervisors, leads and frontline talent. That’s the big companies. That’s how complex it is when you’re working with, like I was an HR leader of over 22 hospitals. How does one HR person get out to all those 22 hospitals? I could go on and on, but it needs to start with all leaders need to understand succession management.

What are you seeing, Sumit? What is the big failure in a lot of companies having proactive succession planning? What are you finding?

PSF 12 | Succession Plans

Succession Plans: By giving people some development, you’re also allowing your organization to stay stable. This also makes sure that any of your critical roles are not unstaffed or lying vacant.


The idea of succession isn’t sold well enough to people, Sam. Say I’m a leader, I’ve got those 100 emails and 20,000 things to do during my day. You’re saying the honor is on me to grow a successor for myself. Why would I do that? Unless you show me what’s in it for me. I feel threatened by the idea that somebody younger, smarter, faster and cheaper is likely to take over, especially in these troubled times. Therefore, I would probably do my best to throw a spanner into the works and say, “Let me make sure that anyone who is being seen as a successor to me fails rather than succeeds.”

Unless you show me the right career path for myself and say that, “We’re not trying to make it the end of the road for you. We’re trying to create a new road for you or you’ve got the freedom to chart out your own path,” it’s not going to work. I’m not even talking about CEO succession. I’m talking about succession at all levels. It’s a mindset that develops. I could be a team leader or manager. If you keep on focusing on making me indispensable and saying, “You are the man,” I wouldn’t ever feel like somebody needs to replace me. While I yearn for growth, at the same time, I don’t want to lose out on the strengths that I have and neither do you.

If you’re talking about, say software programming, I could be a fantastic programmer. There is no reason for you to promote me to a team leader because you’ll get a team leader who is undercooked and you’ll lose out on a software programmer. Therefore, as an HR leader or business leader, you never ever think of creating a succession plan or it would never get implemented. That’s where this statistic comes in.

The other part of the sentence is if more than 85% of HR leaders say that organizations have succession plans, but you see the abysmally low number of people saying the plans work. Essentially, it’s a confession from the HR fraternity itself. This is a study of over 10,000 executives conducted by Deloitte. It’s across the world, it’s not geography-specific. Most of your HR leaders are saying, “There are plans that don’t work.”

You are spot on, Sumit, and you are 100% right. It’s very dangerous when you say we’re cutting it that close. Imagine in the healthcare system and you are down to the bone staff. Talented nurses, physicians, sterile processing technicians, whatever it is and then the fear that I’m going to lose my job even at the frontline. Why would I train someone else to replace myself? If that means that I’m 55 years old, looking at the next decade and I need to save up for my retirement, why would I want to be training another nurse or another practitioner without realizing, “Maybe there is another profession within this organization from a career mobilization aspect where maybe I can transfer to and even increase my income by 5% or 10% and help my successor replace my position.” You’re right, Sumit, when you say it is an issue at all levels. Even in my little company. I’ve been talking about career mobilization all the time. It’s a positive thing. The succession program does not need to be a negative thing.

What are the benefits of doing this right, though? We talked about a lot of things that happens when we’re not doing this, but what are the great benefits? Go ahead, Sumit. You have a lot of things to talk about here.

The interesting thing is that none of this is new or cutting edge in that sense. You do succession planning right, you’ve got a continuous talent pipeline. None of your roles will keep lying vacant. It’s a way to ensure business continuity, which is an important ask. There is a lower risk of failure because a person you’re promoting from within is more likely to understand the organization to hit the ground running than somebody you bring in from outside. There is a risk of failure of the internal incumbent as well.

If you’ve got your succession strategy in place and woven into your overall talent management process, I don’t see any reason why it would fail. You get to retain your top talent. You also get to attract better talent because people know this is an employer who believes in growing talent from within rather than simply buying the best of talent from the industry. It helps you in handling your costs. No rocket science to it. Internal hire is much cheaper than external ones, both in terms of hiring costs.

The money you spend on partners to find you the right talent and the number of days, weeks or months that the position is vacant for. Organizational performance doesn’t get compromised. We’ve already mentioned the business continuity. The last one is pretty interesting. It also means faster promotions. If you are able to groom your successors, you’re not indispensable. You can get promoted faster by saying that, “I’ve got five people who can potentially replace me. Maybe it’s high time for me to take on a larger role.” It takes a lot of security and maturity to do this. It can be done irrespective of age.

If you're able to groom your successors, you're not indispensable. Click To Tweet

I’ve got a healthcare example where I faced the same resistance that I was talking about. Senior people in their 50s or late 50s felt that a succession planning mechanism is a way to push them out of the door and replace them with younger and possibly cheaper people. We help them create a strategy where we told them that you can still choose to be employed in an advisory capacity when a successor eventually does turn up. We’ll still retain you with similar or more benefits. You can function as a consultant. You can function as an advisor. The normal age of retirement would be 60 years.

We are willing to keep you until 65 until the other person develops into your replacement role. The idea did find traction because instead of two more years, some of them were getting seven more years to work. That entire retirement planning phase came into the picture. The idea was a huge success. I’m sure Char would agree, it’s a highly technical and specialized industry. There aren’t enough great professionals around with the right experience. If you can retain that experience and, at the same time, get somebody who is learning the job better, it’s a win-win for everyone and the world.

I was thinking about the book we read a while back. It was called A World Without Work by Daniel Susskind. Another thing in here that was mentioned as far as his vision of the future is that with automation and so forth, there potentially could be fewer jobs and so forth. Part of that journey is people are doing, there’s more job sharing and people are working 4 or 3 days a week instead of 5 days a week.

There are some benefits in this when we look at this in succession planning. It doesn’t have to be you’re training somebody to replace you in the future. It can be more of a job-sharing type of deputy to you for instance, an assistant, a trainee or a mentor that is helping you perform a lot of aspects of the role that can step in or you can step in for them in various places, so they can take over at times. There is a different way of thinking about this.

As you guys know, I have a small company of 25 employees going up to 30 soon. We’re growing. Every single one of these are an absolute spot-on point. My frontline leaders are very excited to sit down with me one-on-one to talk about career mobility and our pipeline. We have a rule. We do not promote anyone in our company unless we do it from within. We are not hiring managers or other specialists from the outside. We only promote from within, unless we truly have a true vacancy where no one is still developed.

In our company, part of why we’re thriving so much and when we do our interviews for our leaders, we identify, through the TMA method and the questions related to their competencies. We have been able to identify our compliancy manager, for example. We needed a manager to manage compliancy and HIPAA. That is his role. He also works from a wheelchair but he is brilliant. He used to manage 100 employees in a large healthcare system. He is awesome. The point is that every leader is focused on promoting from within.

When they see our company growing, we are constantly talking about the fact that new positions are being creative. We took one of our talent advocates and now she’s our executive assistant. We also see that she might grow into some of the recruiter space. We want to start developing her into that area. For our company, it has helped us maintain our costs and make sure that we’re not just constantly hiring and burning out talent, but making our employees feel good about the fact that we want you to move up or move as you call it, the matrix, the lateral move or move into different positions. It can work.

It is a positive, exciting thing when employees know that, “If I can help the company grow and be successful, I might end up in my dream job. I might be able to use what I’m passionate about to make a difference with this company.” Every staff meeting, I get a chance in my little people segments to talk about these types of things. People are happy. I’ve been told by many of my employees, they want to stay with us as long as possible because they love their job and working with this company.

PSF 12 | Succession Plans

Succession Plans: There’s a lower risk of failure when you promote a person from within. They are more likely to understand the organization to hit the ground running than somebody from the outside.


That’s very different than my corporate experience. Where my mind goes is how can we create that same energy, excitement and enthusiasm about a successful succession planning program that can address all of these factors and help to help the executive leaders that make the cost-saving decisions realize that this can work if you can find the right program or process and also be open-minded.

The other comment I want to say is, look how fast we’re changing. Every day is a change, which means every day, there’s a different need in the organization regarding our talent. It’s constant. Look at how fast our world changed. I know you guys are more of the tech gurus. I can’t keep up with technology. You already know that. How do you keep up on the training? How do you keep up on the changes? It’s just constant.

The workforce needs are changing. The old succession planning model was in the standpoint of employees within a company and growing them within the company. As Harold points out, there is a lot more gig workers mobile worker. The workforce is more agile than ever. We can still look at the different ways that we’re utilizing the workforce as a whole internally.

I’d love to hear your point of view on this, Sumit, as far as the future of succession planning and the process. If we look at the internal workforce and developing successors that are full-time at our company, and then also looking at gig workers that can step in, that’s something that we can pull into the model. What do you think?

A bit of trivia about VUCA, the acronym was coined in 1987. Succession planning, it probably began during the times when we were ruled by kings and emperors and they would have children. They’d start training them right from a young age on arts, music, governance, finance, economy, everything, and then hope that some of that knowledge would stick.

The sad part is that modern organizations, a lot of them, they still follow the same approach without understanding what the unique skillset of that person is, what is the ambition or the aspiration of that individual as well. It’s a slightly tangential analogy that I’m using. If there is a king, not all of the children might want to be the next kings or queens. Somebody might want to be more of a finance guru, political strategist or something.

The classic storyline where you have a benevolent king and then his son, the tyrant, comes up in there, maybe not to be the best leader. We could see that in some of our businesses as well.

This has gone along on all history. That’s an amazing perspective. Did I mention one other thing about the gig concept? He can be very successful with a gig worker, but also, at the same time, it’s hard because I’ve also been an interim HR director. To be put in as a gig worker, as you call it, as an interim HR director into a company and work there for 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, or whatever I’ve done, it is challenging as a gig worker because you don’t understand the culture, politics, bureaucracy, the communication issues, particularly in the HR or OD-related industry. You are put on a fast and furious train to figure, “What is it that I could contribute here?”

Modern good ones, their experienced in how much their investment into the company. To the extent that the company allows us, they can become quite an extension of the workforce, even on the part-time basis. If the company embraces them as a true worker and a contributor, they will share the culture and so forth or that internal knowledge for that gig work to be successful in that environment.

When you were doing this, Char, gig work is still a new concept. Companies are pulling this into their workforce model. Knowing that for us to have the resiliency in our talent model, gig workers play a part in that. They are agile. We can bring them in when we need them. We cannot use them when we don’t need them. It creates that flexibility. If companies have the right mindset, they can bring those gig workers in and have them part of the culture and understand what is going on in the company.

The sad part is that many modern organizations still follow the same succession approach without understanding the unique skillset of every team member. Click To Tweet

An excellent gig worker can come in as the leader and coach and bring a new knowledge and skillset to help the talent within the organization learn those new talents, skillsets and approaches to use. Perhaps the gig worker is only there for a year. Ultimately, when they leave, just like when you walk into a forest, you leave it better than the way you found it. You leave it more improved. A good gig worker learns to do the same when they walk into that culture.

I know this topic is not on gig workers, but it is quite important when we think about succession, especially that point you brought up. I’m surrounded by Native Americans in my part of the area. In the cowboy language, they were called Indians, which we have a true Indian on. The point is, in their folklore, they have a character that’s called Kokopelli.

That Kokopelli would go from tribe to tribe. It was a musician that would spread knowledge and story and so forth. That’s what I think about the modern good worker. They bring in diverse knowledge from other industries that can pollinate and create new thoughts and ideas in our organizations to make ourselves even better.

In a way that doesn’t threaten the employee or the population. It takes a very special skill. I agree with that point. This is an interesting slide. Sumit, do you want to tell us about this?

On the point of gig workers and how they fit into the succession scheme of things, answering the question about how succession is changing, gig work itself has transformed. Earlier, gig workers were more of people you could outsource some of the relatively low complexity and high-volume things. You get somebody to produce the widgets like essentially. There are companies that outsource or assign gig workers to do things like managing their entire marketing function or even managing things like culture and diversity.

The idea is you bring in somebody from outside or somebody who is not a permanent part of the organization. You put them on a rolling contract and say, “The idea is for your role to deliver. We’re freshening things up.” That’s where this slide comes into the picture. This, in my opinion, is key to understanding what a succession plan should be like. Are you even aware of your overall business strategy? Do you know where the organization is heading towards?

Once you’re clear on that, that’s when the other pieces will fall into place. Step one, what is your business strategy? Are you looking at being a market disruptor? Are you looking at being conservative and maintaining your market share? Are you looking at constantly throwing new products into the market and hoping 10% of the mistake? What’s your strategy like? To accomplish this strategy, what are some of the roles that you require, at a leadership level, as well as at a non-leadership level?

You might have an individual contributor role, which is key to your success. That role needs to be part of your critical roles list as well, even if it’s just a team manager role and not a C-Suite position. What are the talents and competencies required for each of these roles? You need to map that out and then carry out the assessment of the talent pool that you have. The reason key talent feeds into the strategy and into the talent pool is because, say you’re dealing with a basketball team. You’re a new manager who has taken over.

You cannot possibly fire all the existing players and replace them with a new pool. Your strategy or whether you’re aiming at the playoffs, what are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to hold on to your position in the table from last year? Your strategy also gets impacted by what talent you already have. You can, over a period of over, say 3 to 5 years, say that, “We are aiming to get here.” You cannot suddenly just say, “I got to win every possible championship there is to win.”

PSF 12 | Succession Plans

Succession Plans: If you can retain your experiences and, at the same time, get somebody who’s learning your job better, it’s a win-win for everyone.


Relative to the sport, having an athlete or your employee do multiple roles is true championship. It’s phenomenal that people can have so many talents and we don’t even realize the capabilities and competencies that people have.

I understand Sumit’s point. If you can bring in a top player from a different area or a different company and then plug them into the team at your company, they may not perform as well because of how they mesh with the team or the firm’s culture. It is great having dynamic players that can do much more than one function. Coming into the team, it can be disruptive if it’s done suddenly without integration. You need to make sure that they share the same values and culture.

Developing a culture where you are authentic and have transparency about your overall business strategy and having those open dialogues with everyone. All employees understand that. Creating a culture where your talent feels open and free to speak and raise their voice and say, “We have a critical need here. Is there anybody on this team that could maybe fill that critical role?” Having all employees part of that discussion is the key to success. It shouldn’t just be a little pocket of people making those decisions.

When we’re looking at company culture and then we’re looking at country culture, there are certain aspects where that might be difficult in different countries, would you agree, Sumit?

Yes. After you’ve assessed your people, you need to check if they’re ready for the next level already for staffing the role. We also need to make sure we’ve factored in their ambitions into this entire scheme of things. Decide on what individual developmental interventions will go into the picture and what group interventions the entire organization needs to shift towards need to happen. The right side, I’m not going to go into too much of detail, but the idea is, if you do this, an indirect benefit is you get to attract the right talent. You develop and you retain your most talented people. That’s a key to having succession plans at work.

Sumit, what’s your opinion? How often would we do a talent review? I know it depends on the size of the company. With the large companies, it happened once a year. I would like to make that more often process. What are your thoughts on that?

With what’s called real-time performance management or a continuous feedback mechanism, Char, the challenge review also needs to keep happening. We need to keep looking at what people are doing right or wrong and need support or corrective action. Again, being fond of a sports analogy is almost like the manager of a sports team, shouting out feedback from the sidelines and saying, “You got to track that player or you’re not making the right runs.”

Correcting feedback in real-time and saying that, “If you want to win the game and succeed, these are the things you need to start fixing.” Rather than waiting for half the season to go by and then say, “I’ve spotted a trend in the last ten games. This is what you did wrong.” That can be a more formal structured process. At the same time, the power of continuous feedback gives people timely interventions that cannot be discounted. Once a year, a talent review to see who’s in the pipeline and where.

Make sure we have frequent dialogues with them, say, “How do you feel about your development? What are things we’re doing wrong we can do better?” Also, giving that person feedback on time. Rather than saying, “I noticed this in 2021. It’s 2022 right now, you didn’t do all these things. Hence, I’m sorry to say you’re not looking likely to be the next successor.”

That’s part of the challenge with an integrated talent management approach. Using traditional performance evaluations and looking at the progress and the accomplishments one time a year. When somebody had a very successful project or had a little mistake that happened one year ago or six months ago, it needs to be just in time discussion. Part of the culture of ongoing.

It needs to be day-to-day. We talked about our talent, the good and the not so good, the areas we can help improve and our great accomplishments. Identifying that potential talent for the next position that’s going to be open. It integrates with the other aspects of talent management strategies, such as performance. It happens all the time.

The other mistake that we often make is we tend to combine performance and potential and say that a high performer is also a high potential employee, which is not right. For a wonderful, better example, I could be a great software programmer, but I may not have the right skill to lead a team. If we were to assume that great programmers also make great leaders, we‘re setting up for failure in the longer term. This is a study by Gardner that a significant chunk of our people don’t belong in the succession program. We’re setting them up for failure. We’re also setting ourselves as organizations up for failure.

Managers combine performance and potential, saying that a high performer is also a high potential employee. This is generally not right. Click To Tweet

If somebody gets an excellent rating on their performance evaluation or a 5 out of 5, whatever you want to call it, all of a sudden, we assume, “That’s going to be our next department leader. That’s going to be our next manager.” This has happened to me where I identified somebody I thought was going to be a great manager. Through the assessments that we were using and talking and having conversation, she did not want to be a manager. That was not her passion. It was interesting because we just assumed, “You are a top performer and you’re excellent.” She’s like, “That’s what I love to do. I’m not interested in managing other people.” There were assumptions made.

A classic mistake a lot of companies make. It’s amazing how widespread that is. It is a very common mistake.

That’s why to make it successful, we need to follow these three steps. We need to assess people using the right tools and right mechanisms. We need to make sure we’re aligned in terms of what the organization’s and individual’s needs are. What does the role demand as well? Based on that, we focus on the mobility aspect of it. Not necessarily vertical, but what other directions in which we can shape people’s careers to create meaning for the critical roles that we’ve identified. That’s where the overall talent management strategy comes in.

It backs retention and engagement as well. I added a different dimension to it. The workforce experience goes up when people know they’ve got those opportunities. Again, this is a research, I don’t remember the precise number. It’s more than 60%. Over 60% of people feel it’s easier to find a job outside your organization than inside. That directly speaks to the need for better succession planning and a more cohesive talent management strategy, as well as the need for career mobility.

That’s shocking because when companies understand that the cost of turnover and they spend so much money on programs to retain people and attract people just to have them leave because you’re not focusing on development or proper succession or right placement is tragic.

Again, to my point, you’ve got a benefit’s program, let’s say, where you’re offering tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement. Perhaps someone’s going to school to be in a very different type of profession. You can integrate your benefit strategy with, for example, tuition assistance with, “Did you realize that if you’re studying marketing and you’re ambitious about marketing that we happen to have a growing marketing department over here? Let’s talk about the potential to transfer over the marketing.”

A good leader to identify that talent and realizes that person’s going to school for that type of thing. An employee is going to say, “You’re right. I want to stay with this company because you care. It’s not like you want me to stay with you for the next 30 years in this department. I can transfer around to other sections of this company not only that, I might be able to move to another part of either the United States or the world, globally.” It’s good to have that conversation with your employee after you’ve gone through these three steps of assessing and aligning their potential talent, growing, developing, and then advancing or using career mobility. That takes great talent of a good leader to be able to do that.

The part at the bottom talks about the TMA method, which is a fantastic way of talent management. It deals with succession among other things. It’s a great way to develop people. You create what kind of competency profile you require for different roles in the organization. You assess people. You can administer different kinds of tests to them to gauge where they’re at right now and find out what’s their competency level. You can match individuals to their aspirations. You can match them to critical roles, deciding what development career paths they should have and finally end with providing them the right mobility.

It would help you in flipping the question from asking people why you’re leaving to preempting it and saying, “What would make you stay?” This journey would make it come alive. Breaking it up into a little more detail. When we’re assessing people, we list down the roles and specific talents needed to succeed in that role and run different kinds of assessments for them. An example of the results that TMA gives you is what Sam was talking about, that there is no right or wrong. There is no black or white. It’s a positive psychology-based tool.

It measures the kinds of traits that you display. Being team-oriented is fine. Being autonomous is fine as well. There is no negative consequence associated with either one of them. A certain role might require to be more team-oriented than say a lone wolf. For that role, your suitability might be indicated by the talent you display. That’s all there is to it.

PSF 12 | Succession Plans

Succession Plans: Over 60% of people feel that it’s easier to find a job outside their organization than inside. That directly speaks to the need for better succession planning and a more cohesive talent management strategy.


There is no type-costing you into a bucket. Some of the tools and pretty much all of them are covered under the TMA set of tests. You can have the aptitude to measure your suitability for different roles, whether it’s sales, operations, manufacturing, or something else. There is a personality component to it, which measures what motives you have. What gets you going and helps you in taking the next step forward. You can do 360-degree assessments based on the competencies. The tool is pretty comprehensive in the sense that it’s got over 50 competencies, which you can modify to a certain extent. There are 53 to be precise.

Those competencies are all found on, if you’re interested in looking at this. It’s open-source, so you can use them with or without the tool. It’s a very pretty handy source there.

One of the learnings of utilizing this assessment for my company is the perception that taking an assessment or a test is intimidating to employees. What we learned in my company, my employees that were taking this particular assessment that, “Am I going to get this question wrong? Am I going to answer the wrong way so that I don’t get my next promotion or transfer to where I want to go?” Culturally, it was interesting to learn that feedback from my employees, particularly our leadership team.

They’re like, “Are you saying that if I participate in this assessment, it’s a positive thing and it’s okay if the answer is not exactly what you expected?” I said, “This is how we can positively coach and talk about your passion, what you’re excited about in a positive way. This is not a negative test. This is a coaching tool. This is a discussion tool.” Sumit, that’s what you and I were talking about too. Some of the former personality assessment tools were perceived as negative because if you didn’t answer it the perfect way, you might not get that next job you want.

A newer research into personality does discredit some of those tools to a certain extent and says that you can’t put people into buckets or types. A tool that says personalities are 4, 20 or 16 types is unfair. You can’t bucket seven billion people into a certain number of fixed buckets. You’ve got to look at the traits they display. It’s got to be along the spectrum not more of a binary. You’re either this or that. You can be somewhere along the range.

Also, the modern personality theories do say that your personality is flexible to a certain extent. Depending on the context, for example, somebody who says an introvert is not 100% of an introvert, and their friends might be surprised that a tool says they’re introverted because the person’s personality is a bit different from people they know are with people that they consider as friends.

Sometimes the introverts are not necessarily introverted with certain different types of people.

They could be.

They got put in a bucket as that, but that might not necessarily be the truth.

Some of the insights that this assessment provides is what work environment a person is likely to appreciate, what communication style will bring out the best in them, and what’s their learning style. You can fine-tune your developmental interventions for them accordingly. The tool also builds in ways to provide them with the right coaching advice. If you’re doing selection interviews or developmental interviews as well, what are some of the questions to probe them on? These are some aspects that you can get and use to match what exactly you’re looking at.

PSF 12 | Succession Plans

Succession Plans: If you can bring in a top player from a different area and plug them into your company, they may not perform as well, mainly because of how they mesh with your team or culture.


Having it in your hand just in time, that’s helpful for leaders to have all those bullet items at their fingertips on their smart devices. Having that at their fingertip to sit with their employee, most likely the employee has a smart device, but to put the phone down and have the crucial conversation and make it easy and user-friendly is also important.

It’s great that the TMA methodology is mobile-ready.

Once we’ve matched the personal characteristics of people with the profiles we created in the TMA, we can figure out what’s the degree of fit of that person with a particular position. It doesn’t necessarily have to be 100% fit, but we can define criteria saying, “A 50% fit or a 60% fit is also fine with me. We’re willing to take a call on that person.”

There are various ways to use this information. You can also do things like saying, “Somebody who’s an 80% match is somebody we are willing to promote right away. Somebody who’s 50%, we’d like to give them a bit of a developmental journey. Wait for the next annual or six-monthly talent review and see if they’ve progressed. If yes, we are willing to give them a chance then.”

To advance them, these are some of the things you can do. It talks about classroom training, giving them real life projects and on-the-job experiences. Helping them in reflecting on what they’ve learned and chatting out their own journey forward. A bit of coaching, practicing and helping other people learn and come up the code. That’s broadly what this entire wheel talks about. That is what sets people up for success.

To recap what we spoke about. Step number one, ensure that you’re aligned to your business strategy. Look at all the critical roles. Not only the C-Suite positions, but whatever impacts your business. Make sure hiring and succession are integrated in the sense that when you bring in a person, they know what careers would exist at your organization and they’re excited about it. Not necessarily that you’re promising a young graduate joining in a CEO position in ten years, but you can show them different kinds of career paths and some of the journeys that have been undertaken by people in your firm.

Some people agree some disagree with this point, but in my opinion, it’s a good idea to keep people informed that they’re being seen as potential successors and they’ve got a great career to look forward to. Finally, make sure that your succession plan is not a standalone thing. It links to your business strategy and talent strategy. I see no reason why that shouldn’t work. If it doesn’t, they’re always expensive consultants to help you out.

Excellent presentation and Good information.

A great conversation. Sumit, thank you so much for sharing your deep expertise on this topic. Char, the commentary and how this has been applied to your business and your previous career has been great. Thank you so much.

Thank you, everyone. We appreciate it. We want to end our session. Please, share on your social media and have a fabulous week. Take care.

Thanks, everyone. Bye.

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About Sumit Singla

Sumit has been working in HR & HR consulting roles for 16+ years across sectors and verticals and specializes in organization design, wellbeing, storytelling & design thinking, and performance management. In his career with consulting firms such as Aon, Deloitte, and Accenture, he has successfully led programs aimed at total HR transformation for clients.

Recently, as Associate Director for India Consulting at Deloitte, he worked with clients on cultural transformation and HR process and policy design. He also organized and spoke at conferences and events about a variety of topics relevant to HR today.

Now self-employed, he works with clients across the globe on a variety of HR solution areas.

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