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Talent and succession management

How to ensure that the skills of your staff are nurtured and developed appropriately and that a plan is in place to ensure key roles are covered effectively.

Talent and succession management is essential to all organisations. If talent is not managed appropriately, skills can be wasted and good people may decide to go elsewhere, leaving the organisation with low performers.

Without succession management, organisations can be left in difficulty whilst important roles are empty.

Talent management

A thorough talent management programme is not just about spotting 'star performers' in the organisation and designing a high-flying leadership training programme.

Talent management is about identifying how individual people at all levels across the organisation can be supported and developed in a way that benefits both them and the organisation. It is an ongoing process that needs to be proactively managed and reviewed.

Roots, branches, shoots and leaves

The talent management needs of people working within organisations can broadly be divided into four categories, depending on their skills, knowledge, behaviour, intellectual ability and potential:

  • roots: the firm foundations of any organisation; people that are very good at the job they do and who want to stay in the same position for the foreseeable future
  • branches: people who are eager to develop and grow
  • shoots: high-performing people who are eager to develop and grow
  • leaves: people who are not performing as well as expected in their current role and who may be more successful in another role within the organisation or in a different organisation.

Being objective and fair when managing talent

When placing people into categories such as these it is important to do it objectively and fairly, taking all employment laws (particularly discrimination laws) into account.

Some employees may have a different perception about which category they fit into. If there is a difference in perception the line manager or HR manager will need to discuss this with the employee, looking for objective evidence from both sides. If the decision is not to be changed after looking at the situation objectively, the line manager will need to manage the employee’s expectations sensitively and honestly.

See the Managing performance and Your development sections of this website for further information on how to develop people.

Roots: staff happy to stay in their current role

How to manage people that do the role that they are employed to do to the desired level of performance, but have no ambition to move on or do anything different.

In the 'roots, branches, shoots and leaves' approach to talent management, people falling into the roots category form the firm foundations of the organisation. These individuals do the role that they are employed to do to the desired level of performance. They have no ambition to move on or do anything different and are very happy to do the role that they are employed to do for the foreseeable future.

It is great for any organisation to have people they can rely on to perform at an acceptable level and to know that the employees are loyal and have no intention of moving on.

Talent managing 'Roots'

Managers should never assume that employees do not want to move on and develop. Therefore, if someone is performing well they should first check whether this is the case.

Some people falling into this category like to develop and learn new things within their role, whilst others are keen to keep things as they are.

If an employee is performing well and wants to stay in the same role, the manager should support their decision and not try to force them into developing towards a promotion. It can be frustrating for some managers to manage a talented person with little ambition. However, personal choice needs to be respected.

If the employee or the organisation wishes to develop in a way that will benefit the organisation and the role, then a professional development plan should be put into action.

It can be challenging if the organisation needs the employee to develop new skills, knowledge or behaviour and they are not keen to do so. For hints and tips on how to manage employees through change see managing change.

Branches: staff needing development

How to manage people who are eager to develop and grow, but don’t necessarily have the skills, knowledge, behaviour, intellectual ability and potential to move on at the present time.

In the 'roots, branches, shoots and leaves' approach to talent management, people falling into the branches category are eager to develop and grow, but don’t necessarily have the skills, knowledge, behaviour, intellectual ability and potential to move on at the present time.

Talent managing 'Branches'

Employees identified as branches may feel that the organisation is holding them back from what they want to do and so may feel frustrated and become demotivated if not managed properly. See Staff retention for hints and tips on motivation.

With branches the line manager needs to explain in a clear and objective way how the employee’s skills, knowledge and behaviour differ from those displayed by a 'shoot' (high performer).

The line manager should next establish where the employee wants to progress to in the organisation. They should then work with the employee to formulate a professional development plan which helps them work towards acquiring the skills, knowledge and behaviours that they need to move forward.

Coaching may be a particularly appropriate way of helping branches to develop the skills, knowledge and behaviour they need to move forward and to help to align their expectations.

At all times it is important that the line manager behaves objectively, fairly and honestly when dealing with the employee.  It is in everyone’s best interest to support the employee in becoming the best they can be and using their talents effectively. They should be given the opportunity to develop and prove themselves, but setting unrealistic expectations will only cause issues in the future.

Shoots: high-performing staff

How to manage people who are ambitious, talented and able to develop and grow, so that their talents will not be lost from the organisation.

In the 'roots, branches, shoots and leaves' approach to talent management, employees in the shoots category are ambitious and talented people who are eager and able to develop and grow.

If they are not given the appropriate support and opportunities they are likely to leave the organisation and their talents will be lost.

Talent managing 'Shoots'

Shoots are likely to be highly-motivated individuals. It is important to discuss what they want to achieve and what the organisation hopes they will achieve to establish a common goal.

Next the employee and the manager should jointly formulate a motivating and challenging professional development plan to help the employee develop quickly and effectively in the desired direction.

Coaching and mentoring can be particularly useful ways of helping high performing employees develop to their optimum level.

The organisation may be wise to consider a fast-track programme for shoots, as they are likely to be of great benefit to the organisation and may be impatient to move on.

See Managing performance and Your development for further information on how to develop people.

Leaves: staff who are underperforming

How to manage people who are not performing well and may be hindering the organisation in their current role.

In the 'roots, branches, shoots and leaves' approach to talent management, people falling into the leaves category are those who are not performing well in their current role.

Talent managing 'Leaves'

It is possible that, with the right support the employee's performance will improve. Alternatively, they may be more successful in another role within the organisation, or it may be better for the employee and the organisation if the employee moves on to another organisation.

See Involuntary termination for more information about the appropriate courses of action for dealing with capability and conduct or performance issues.

Allowing poor performance to continue within an organisation is not helpful to the employee, the organisation or other employees. It is important for these issues to be dealt with in a fair, honest and timely fashion. The longer that poor performance is allowed to continue, the more unsatisfactory behaviour is reinforced.

Useful links

Page last edited Apr 28, 2017

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