Succession Planning: Five Critical Advantages of Development Assessments

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While the majority of best-in-class companies use assessments for hiring[1], less than half include development assessments in their succession and leadership development programs[2].  If the value of using assessments for acquiring top talent is clear – why is there reluctance to use assessments for development? Unfortunately, many organizations simply select development assessments based on their popularity or familiarity without careful thought to how the assessments support the objectives of the succession and development plan: helping participants gain knowledge, build key skills and competencies, and grow their potential to contribute.  The haphazard selection and use of development assessments leads to (understandably) cynical leaders and teams who are either unwilling to attempt another assessment, or question the value of yet another investment of time and money.

Selecting a Development Assessment

Because assessments are often used as a diagnostic tool at the beginning of a succession plan or development initiative, a poorly selected tool can set back participants for the entire program.  The number of assessment providers and types of development assessments only adds to the complexity of the decision. Should you use an individually focused self-assessment (e.g., self-inventories of personality, values, or leadership style), a 360 degree feedback survey, or an assessment center or simulation to provide the diagnostic information your employees need?

Five Critical Advantages of Development Assessments

One of the greatest ways to achieve growth and positive change is through sequencing feedback and insight with intentional goal-setting and learning opportunities.  With that in mind, here are five critical advantages to using development assessments as part of you succession plan.

#1.  Understand and diagnose the needs and opportunities of high potential employees.

With close to 50 percent of new leaders derailing, feedback from assessments can serve as an important catalyst for change as leaders learn about the gap between their mindsets and skills and what is required by your culture and the role.  At an organizational level, this information can target specific growth and development programs and plan for the future.  This can lead to important information for succession planning by allowing you to see if you have the number of employees required to move into key roles in the future.

#2.  Build your leadership pipeline.

Most organizations lack the internal candidates needed to fill expected vacancies – which close to a third believe will reduce their ability to meet key results.  Unfortunately, many organizations promote or move employees into roles based primarily on their past performance or tenure without understanding the employee’s readiness for the next role.  Assessments provide powerful insights that can be used to identify and nurture potential.  When an assessment accurately measures the competencies and qualities required for the next role, it can more accurately predict someone’s potential than managerial judgement alone.

#3.  Increase productivity and build cross-functional teams.

Development assessments can build cross-functional competence within teams, while increasing productivity.  With assessments, you can narrow in on what skills, knowledge, and mindsets will most influence results with great precision.  Rather than implementing a one-size-fits-all development program, assessments guide leaders and high potentials to the precise training they need to improve performance.

Assessment results at the group level can help organizations better live their culture and achieve key goals.  For example, if results of a 360-degree feedback assessment show team-focused project work and brainstorming as an area of opportunity – and being team focused is foundational to your culture – you can respond to this by providing greater team training and ensuring people have the resources needed to work effectively within teams.

#4.  Provide the opportunity for self-awareness and goal-setting.

As participants receive feedback on their performance, whether through a 360-degree feedback evaluation or a personality assessment, they’ll become aware of performance gaps.  While knowing about opportunities is valuable, the biggest changes in behavior and improvements in performance are achieved when an assessment is followed by intentional goal-setting and instruction.

#5. Accurately measure the impact of your development and succession planning programs.

Only about a quarter of organizations evaluate the effectiveness of their succession planning and leadership development programs[1].  Assessments can be administered on a continual basis to monitor changes over time.  For example, if you gave a development assessment and 360-degree feedback evaluation to new managers today and then built a new leadership development program, you could re-administer the assessments in six months and compare the results.  How has the experience of those directly reporting to the new managers been affected by the program?  You could also compare the assessment results of different cohorts before and after development activities are launched.  Do today’s new managers perform better on the assessments than those six months ago, before the new development program was built?  By continually measuring results, you can make targeted improvements for both individual employees and your organization while also clearly communicating the return-on-investment of the program.

Next Steps

Bill Gates once said, “I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition.”  By supporting the success of your teams with a succession and development plan grounded in carefully chosen assessments, you can not only build business results but also provide an experience that benefits participants overall well-being and growth.

Interested in exploring development assessments for your team?  We are complimentary development assessments and 360-degree feedback surveys for organizations interested in exploring the power of development assessments in helping them reach their intended results.  Provide your information below to receive 3 assessments for your team.

Access Your Complimentary 360 or Development Assessment


[1] Pre-Hire Assessments: An asset for HR in the age of the Candidate.  May, 2015.

[2] Assessment for Leader Development.  In The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Recruitment, Selection, and Employee Retention.  (2017).

[3] Church, A.H., & Rotolo, C.T.  (2013).  How are top companies assessing their high-potentials and senior executives?  A talent management benchmark study.  Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research.  65, 3.

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