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Learning and Development | 6 Min Read

Succession Planning: How To Identify Your Next In Line With A HiPo Toolkit?

What is Succession Planning?

Succession planning is a systematic process of building a strong leadership pipeline for the organization to maintain momentum when faced with the loss of talent owing to attrition or other reasons. HiPo identification can be the first step in developing a succession plan, given that the process helps identify talent with specific competencies. These chosen employees can assume critical leadership positions and, hence, can be made successors of the business in the future.

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In a recent survey by Mercer | Mettl, more than 80% of organizations chose succession planning and identifying future leaders for critical roles as the goal of their HiPo identification program (Mercer | Mettl, 2020 HiPo Identification Survey).

Developing a succession plan is often more than just finding a replacement or successor of an existing business leader. It should ideally include an extensive employee development plan. It also helps build a high-level of engagement in the hi-potentials who desire achievement and advancement in their careers.

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High-potential identification can lay down a strong foundation for an effective succession and development plan as intellect, aptitude, agility, and the propensity to lead continue to be desirable traits for leadership positions, which are the competencies that Mercer | Mettl’s high-potential program aims to reveal.


Mercer | Mettl's Succession Planning Toolkit, Using High-Potential Identification

Developing a succession plan helps provide continuity to the leadership pipeline. But to implement an integrated and effective succession and talent management plan, there first needs to be an explicit link drawn between what the organization values as talent and the core strategies of that organization. Mercer | Mettl can step in and bridge that gap for you, with its succession planning toolkit.


Mercer | Mettl helps you build a competency framework suited to the present and future needs of your organization, define key competencies needed to succeed in critical roles in your organization, such as critical decision making, solving complex business problems, stakeholder management, etc., and, based on these competencies, nominate the candidates for assessment.

Mercer | Mettl’s scientific framework for high-potential identification enlists four broad competencies and nine sub-competencies from which organizations can choose or add.

“There are a few key qualities of success to look for in succession planning. One is to look for people who are willing to step outside their comfort zone and welcome challenges instead of fearing it. Also, it is important to look for people with key leadership skills who know how to empower and assist others to contribute their best. And also people who are lifelong learners and always growing. Do not count on current leaders being the ones to groom successors as they will naturally tend to choose people like themselves. ” – Stan Kimer, President, Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer.

HiPo Assessment Framework

Based on the chosen competencies, the number of employees, employees’ experience levels, and budget, Mercer | Mettl helps you select a tool that is best suited to the cost and complexity levels of your organization.


Our suite of tools and assessments can easily be customized for each employee level. For example, many organizations prefer to administer online assessments (which evaluate skill, personality, and/or behavior) for junior employees or in case of a high number of test-takers, due to its high validity and cost-effectiveness. Virtual Assessment & Development Centers (VADCs) simulate traditional ACDCs and are best suited for mid-level managers and individual contributors. They weed out logistical hassles, making the process time and cost-efficient. Blended ACDCs bring together on-field programs and online assessments for an integrated approach to talent management and are highly recommended for mid to senior-level leadership profiles. Structured 360-degree feedbacks are also an excellent tool to be used in conjunction with other tools for a holistic picture. Each tool has its strengths and is thus mapped to an organization’s set of customized competencies to gauge readiness and approach the future objectively.


Mercer | Mettl’s reports are customizable and easy to understand. A dedicated team of subject matter experts can help you map candidates on a nine-box succession planning grid to decide an appropriate developmental plan for identified successors.


Mercer | Mettl’s advanced analytics and post-program assessments empower your organization to track the identified high-potentials on their standing in the readiness journey of becoming capable successors.

“Succession planning is a strategy for identifying and developing future leaders at your company and not only the top positions but all key, major roles at all levels. It helps the business in getting prepared for all the outcomes and possibilities in advance. The workers and employees that have high-potential are circled in advance for the potential succession. The most important thing to remember would be to identify the employees and have a plan in advance. We have to look for those people who display the skills necessary to thrive in higher positions, regardless of their current title. Plus, they should have immense leadership qualities and brilliant communication skills. Waiting for some crisis to happen can be very dangerous. So, it is better to test run the employees and your plan. Try to promote in-house talent rather than hiring from outside as loyalty plays a major role.” – Jennifer Willy, Editor, Etia.Com.


The Need for High-Potential Identification as a Prequel to Succession Planning

While high-potential identification and succession planning broadly fall under the gamut of organizational planning & talent development, there are a few key differences between these two processes. HiPo identification is typically a broader initiative. Succession planning, conversely, is a more focussed approach to building a leadership pipeline. Most organizations rely on their identified HiPo talent pool to develop future successors.Quote 3Succession planning is emerging as a critical business strategy for future-proofing businesses in the current market scenario, with baby boomers retiring and intense competition in the market.

HiPo identification and succession planning, together, are the most sought-after processes for the structured management and development of talent within an organization. They are essential for an organization to be future-ready and have a systematically identified talent pipeline that can be developed to take up more demanding roles and responsibilities and deal with future challenges.

High-potential identification, succession planning and leadership development work in tandem when it comes to the future-readiness of your organization. While their objectives may differ based on the organizational requirement at a given time, all of them stem from the same need of identifying a talent pool and deploying developmental interventions to ensure organizational success in the longer term.

High-potential identification can bolster your organization’s talent management and succession planning as HiPo employees possess or exhibit the potential to develop intellect, drive, agility, and leadership orientation to successfully undertake broader and complex roles in the future.

Hence, organizations need to invest in HiPo employee identification as well as succession planning initiatives for the following reasons:

  • Your existing top talent may not remain with you forever. Instead of assuming a reactive approach, it is critical to know who can match or outperform these key resources, thereby ensuring a healthy talent pipeline.
  • Hiring talent from outside may be expensive and may offer a 50-50% probability of success vs. failure. Investing in your existing talent pool is likely to yield better results due to a shorter readiness duration, and knowledge of the current business context.
  • Providing growth and developmental opportunities not only ensures the future success of the organization but also results in higher employee engagement and retention.


With sight on the long-term growth of your organization, high-potential identification can be a stepping stone to succession planning strategies. Both high-potential identification and succession planning can prepare you to tackle a sudden void in leadership by providing a ready pool of talent that has gone through suitable training and development through shadowing, stretch assignments, job rotations, executive training programs, and more. A planned development strategy spans months, even years, to prepare an individual to internalize broader business contexts and shoulder more significant responsibilities.

Therefore, it is a great idea to link your HiPo initiatives, succession planning, and leadership development plans for holistic and sustainable growth of your organization in the present and future. It not only enables you to plan for organizational emergencies but ensures that your high-potential employees are vested in the future of the organization as it is in-line with their growth plans.

Originally published April 15 2020, Updated October 4 2021

Written by

Bhuvi is a content marketer at Mercer | Mettl. She's helped various brands find their voice through insightful thought pieces and engaging content. When not scandalizing people with her stories, you’ll find her challenging gender norms, dancing to her own tune, and crusading through life, laughing.

About This Topic

High-potential identification, also known as 'Hipo,' are employee development initiatives undertaken to identify the most valuable employees and develop them. It helps organizations identify leadership potential, build critical teams and retain top talent.

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