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Elements of WellPoint's Succession-Planning Program

March 22, 2002

You never know when you’re going to be confronted with a sudden management vacancy -- or several all at once. That’s why it’s smart to plan ahead. Company executives offer the following key elements of WellPoint’s succession-planning program:

  • Plan deep. Some companies focus on developing heirs apparent for their top posts, but forget about the layers of subordinates who carry out day-to-day business. WellPoint developed a plan that incorporated the top five layers of management, and prepared the company to cope with the multiple shifts that usually occur at lower levels when a high-ranking management or executive position is filled from within.

  • Go for succession synergy. Linking succession planning with other HR functions and initiatives can make the whole package stronger. WellPoint has combined succession planning with the employee-evaluation process. As a result, the succession-planning program gets more detailed data on internal candidates for promotion. The evaluation process is improved, too, because it now has a tighter focus on identifying and developing employees with potential to rise in the company.

  • Market the program to potential candidates -- and their bosses. Because so much of succession planning is based on the quality of data gathered from candidates and their supervisors, it’s crucial that both groups understand the importance of the program and how it works.

  • Add another dimension to evaluations. Conventional 360-degree evaluations are great, but for succession planning, it helps to go even further. WellPoint sets up "challenge sessions" in which supervisors in a group scrutinize one another’s evaluations of staff, with an eye to spotting viable promotion candidates who may have been overlooked or underestimated by an immediate supervisor.

    Workforce, April 2002, p. 51 -- Subscribe Now!