I care about succession planning, but my executives don’t. How do I get them to care?

This week I am posting part 3 of a 5-part series that answers common questions about succession planning.

Last week I addressed the question: We don’t do succession planning. Where do we even start?

This week, I address an issue commonly faced by leaders within HR departments: I care about succession planning, but my executives don’t. How do I get them to care?

We all know that to make succession planning work, you have to gain buy-in from senior executives. But, this is easier said than done.

Start by thinking of the story you want to tell. This story should address how succession planning will get your executive what they want.

Does your executive want to save money (I can’t think of one who doesn’t)? Then craft a story that highlights how the cost of hiring external talent is often much greater than staffing positions with internal candidates. See the first article in this series for further commentary on this point.

Does your executive want to create a positive public brand for your company? Promoting your best-in-class talent management initiatives that feed into your succession management strategy is a way to do so. For example, re:Work is a website started by Google where companies share the talent management practices that make their organizations a great place to work. Wouldn’t it be nice to have your company profiled there?

Once your story is crafted, gain some momentum using some of these concrete strategies:

1. Leveraging a key leader ally — ask a key leader to pilot a succession planning initiative, and then use their influence to convince others. People are more likely to buy in to the initiative if they feel less like they are complying with an HR initiative, and more like they are following a leader with clout.

2. Testimonial from an external advocate — ask an external executive to testify to the business benefits of succession planning. Your company’s executives will want to emulate her, particularly if she is an executive for a company they can relate to.

3. Win over the least supportive leader — pick the leader in the business who is the least supportive of succession, and work hard to get them on board. Once they support the initiative, others should follow.

Garnering support for succession management isn’t always easy because the benefits are long-term, and less visible. Yet, I hope that the strategies provided above help you to gain some traction.

Next week, I will talk about the next step — Now that people are on board, how can we identify our top talent?