How to Build Strong Success Profiles

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Building Success Profiles to Understand Your Organization’s Needs

If you ask a dozen people what the key for success in a leadership role is, you’ll receive a dozen different answers. Every leader has their own style, and every role comes with its own set of requirements. The unexpected loss of a leader, due to personnel changes or retirement, can create a gap that is hard to fill, even if an organization believes it is well prepared. This difficulty grows exponentially if an organization is unclear about the characteristics that made that leader so successful in their role.

Build Success Profiles with the SIGMA Success Profile™ Template

The SIGMA Success Profile™ template is a worksheet designed to describe the leadership talent needed for success in a critical role as part of the succession planning process. The goal of this worksheet is to outline the knowledge, skills, abilities, and competencies needed for this role, both now and in the future. Success profiles provide leaders with a clear, comprehensive list of the requirements of a role, and can act as a benchmark against which to evaluate succession candidates. This creates a more simplified and standardized selection process. The SIGMA Success Profile™ template is best used following the identification of high-impact roles within the organization. Use our Critical Role Identification Worksheet to help with this process. Once you have identified the critical roles in your organization you are ready to move on and create success profiles. Begin by downloading the SIGMA Success Profile™ template.

SIGMA Success Profile™ Template.

What is a Success Profile?

A success profile consists of the knowledge, skills, experiences, and characteristics that are required for success in any given role. It sets the standard for training and development, while also helping leaders evaluate who might make a good succession candidate for a position.

Benefits of Building Success Profiles

Success profiles are immensely valuable tools that offer a clear understanding of the specific responsibilities and requirements associated with each critical role. Success profiles can be used to:

  • Align job requirements with true indicators of success.
  • Select and hire employees who are a good fit for each role.
  • Establish role clarity.
  • Create effective onboarding programs.
  • Draft targeted employee development programs.
  • Conduct objective, effective performance reviews.
  • Troubleshoot areas where knowledge, skills, experiences, or competencies need development.

Why Success Profiles Matter

A comprehensive succession plan always begins by identifying the most critical roles in your organization. This creates a foundation for your succession planning process. Once you are clear on who would have the most impact on your organization if they left tomorrow, you can begin to understand what each critical role entails, and what a successor would need in order to flourish in that position. Having strong success profiles for each critical role in your organization is important because success profiles allow leaders to:

  • Nominate succession candidates who show potential for the role.
  • Identify gaps between candidates’ current competencies, and what is required for success.
  • Create targeted development plans that are tailored to the needs of each succession candidate.
  • Measure progress in candidate development against a standardized benchmark for success.
  • Select the best suited candidate for succession using objective criteria for success.

How to Use Success Profiles

The purpose of success profiles can extend beyond succession planning and can benefit many aspects of your organization. By developing success profiles for key positions in your organization, you will improve HR, talent management, and business development ventures. Practices that can benefit from comprehensive success profiling are:

  1. Hiring and recruitment
  2. Onboarding and talent development
  3. Leadership development

What Information is Needed for Building Success Profiles?

Before you begin building success profiles ensure that you have the required information — or a way to obtain it — regarding the key requirements success in each critical role. Consider:

  • Educational experience.
  • Work experience.
  • Technical and professional knowledge.
  • Personality and behavioural traits.
  • Talents, aptitudes, and intellectual capacities.
  • Leadership skills.

How to Build a Success Profile

SIGMA has created a success profile template that allows you to fully explore the knowledge, skills, experiences, and characteristics that are required for success in any given role. This comprehensive template was designed to help you gather and document all the information about a critical role in one place, and to assist you in evaluating who might make good succession candidates for that position. It also sets the standard for training and development for these candidates.

1. Start with Demographics

Begin with basic demographic information. Use the results from the Critical Role Identification Questionnaire to indicate eligible exit year and urgency. Next, list important role information, such as location, level, and number of direct reports.

2. List Position Criteria

Use the job description for this role to list the position criteria, including:

  • Necessary education.
  • Required experience.
  • Valuable skills.
  • Role duties.
  • Responsibilities.

3. List Current Competencies Required for the Role

Using input from the Succession Advisory Team (SAT), incumbent, and those who are in contact with the critical role, list the current personal characteristics and competencies required for the job. This may include factors such as personality, ability, disposition, and skills.

Note: SIGMA’s success profile template includes columns for both leadership competencies and role-specific competencies. In the “Leadership” competency column, list skills and abilities that are required for all leaders in your organization. Think of common characteristics you would look for when hiring into senior management positions. In the “Core Role” competency column, list those skills and abilities that are unique to the critical role.

4. Consider Future Competencies

In addition to current competencies, consider future requirements for leaders in your organization, and for individuals looking to step into the critical role. Think about characteristics needed to stay current with industry trends, or any traits best suited for the future of the organization. Align these competencies with strategic planning where possible, and record them at the bottom of the SIGMA Success Profile template.

5. Review Success Profiles

Once you have completed the success profile template, your organization should have a clearer understanding of the requirements for success in each critical role. Before moving on in the succession planning process, review your success profiles to ensure they meet this objective. Once you are ready to move on, the next step in the succession process is to nominate successors for each critical role.

SIGMA Success Profile™ Template.

Tips for Building Strong Success Profiles

1.  Success profiles should be developed for positions, not people

It can be easy to confound a role with the person currently occupying it. When building success profiles, be sure to focus on the position rather than the incumbent. Consider what skills and abilities are required for success in that role, rather than what skills and abilities the incumbent currently has. This is your chance for a fresh look at the position. Reflect on the job requirements, tasks, and expectations for this role. What skills or experiences are needed in order to satisfy those requirements? What traits or characteristics would help a person excel at those tasks? Some of these characteristics will overlap with the characteristics of the current incumbent, but new ideas may emerge from the process.

2.  Preparing for the future begins with strong success profiles today

No one stays in the same role forever — especially top talent. The reality is that between retirement, promotion, personal circumstances, and competing employers, every position will need a succession plan at some point, and if it is not prepared ahead of time, it will need to be made along the way. Unfortunately, last minute succession plans usually end up looking more like replacement hiring. A proper succession plan is proactive by nature; it entails an ongoing talent development process rather than a reactive talent replacement scramble. To prepare for the future and establish a strong succession planning process in advance, critical roles should be identified and success profiles built for each role today. 

3.  Gathering more information will improve your success profiles

Strong success profiles take multiple perspectives into account. Look beyond the SAT and try to get a holistic view of what is required for success in each critical role by gathering information from multiple sources. The incumbent is a great first point of contact. In addition to the incumbent, ask direct reports, supervisors, and peers for their perspective on the skills and abilities necessary for an individual to thrive in that role. Review the results with the SAT and work together to combine the information and create a well-rounded, accurate success profile for each critical role.

Managing Success Profiles

Managing your success profiles for succession planning is a continuous process that involves following imperatives:

  • Understanding the need for succession planning in your organization.
  • Identifying the knowledge, skills, and abilities of potential succession candidates.
  • Implementing success profiles consistently throughout succession planning.
  • Updating success profiles as roles change within your organization.

Remember, success profiles are living documents that can and should be updated regularly. They are your tool for understanding your organization’s critically important roles and they build a foundation and reference point for all subsequent steps of the succession planning process.

Next Step: Nominate Successors

Once you’ve finished creating success profiles for each of the critical roles in your organization, you are ready to nominate successors. Learn about the third step of SIGMA’s six-step succession planning process below or contact one of our experts today.

Nominate Successors

Talk to Glen.

Would you like to learn more about SIGMA’s succession planning services? Glen Harrison is an organizational transformation consultant and succession planning expert. Over the course of his career, Glen has worked with one-third of the Fortune 500 list and with every level of government in Canada and the United States. Having worked with numerous clients to build robust succession plans from the ground up, Glen has extensive experience in the application of SIGMA’s products and services to help organizations realize their people potential. If you have any questions or would like to discuss SIGMA’s succession planning services, send Glen an email or book a call below. He would be more than happy to speak with you.