When we talk about succession planning, people automatically think of C-suite and upper management positions. But this strategy applies to all areas of your business. Succession planning helps prepare a company for inevitable changes that happen – both expected and unexpected ones. A good plan can cover instances when employees hand in their resignation, get ready to retire, get sick, take personal leave, or anything of that nature.
Why succession planning is important
It is critical for businesses to run smoothly. When there is a succession plan in place, it helps make change a manageable event instead of an organisational crisis. A well thought out succession plan has the flexibility to allow for multiple favourable outcomes, including better staff retention.
Succession planning also helps promote and nurture great talent within your company. It enables mentoring, training, and open conversations about advancement opportunities. A company needs all levels of skills in a variety of different roles, and they need to be in the right place at the right time. Succession planning makes that happen.
Here are 8 ways to set you up for succession planning success no matter the size of your company.
1. Be proactive
It takes time to train a promising employee for a leadership role – start the process as soon as possible. Even if you won’t need a replacement in a role for the next couple of years, having various employees trained is invaluable should an unforeseen situation arise.
Pay attention to business growth goals and make sure you have employees lined up to fill the roles you will be creating. Then make sure you have people trained to take over their roles. And so on, and so on. Succession planning involves cascading tiers of preparedness.
2. Keep an open mind
Never disregard promising employees, even if they aren’t next in line for a role. Look for people who display the skills and attitude needed to thrive in higher positions. Use your intuition to predict where they could possibly end up. Succession planning is all about helping employees reach their potential through training and development.
3. Document the skills your employees have
This step starts with knowing (and documenting) the job description, skills, attitude, knowledge, and personality of every employee, as well as what is necessary for success in each role in your company. These documents need to be updated regularly as roles change. Only once you know what an employee does, can you groom them for their next position, and know the skills needed to backfill their role.
Succession plans are confidential documents that normally only HR and senior staff have access to. But conversations around succession planning involve every level of an organisation, and should be re-evaluated after all performance reviews to make sure they are still viable working plans.
4. Mind the gap
If you don’t know what skills your employees have, how will you ever know what gaps you need to fill? Conduct assessments as part of performance reviews to better understand where these gaps exist. These assessments also help employees better understand where they should focus their development in order to be ready for the next step in their careers.
5. Ask employees where they want to be
Have open, honest, realistic conversations, and ask employees where they would like to progress. Talk with them in detail about the types of roles they are interested in, and what they will need to get there. Knowing their goals helps you better plan for their career progression.
However, this isn’t a one-way conversation. Though they may tell you where they would like to be assigned, it is important to determine if this is practical for the business. Skills, ability to adapt, motivation, and growth potential must be taken into account. You probably know more details about various positions and the overall business strategy than they do. There may be a role that would be perfect for them, and they don’t even know it is a possibility. Succession planning can be a collaborative process; one where everyone wins.
6. Map it out
In addition to speaking with the employees, also work with managers on succession planning. Start with a simple template and customise it to the needs of a department or organisation. When you explain to a manager how to complete a succession plan, they will generally ignore most of the details and intuitively fill out any form you provide them. This is because good managers are constantly making plans for their team’s potential growth. This process just puts it down on paper and helps leaders be more strategic moving forward. The template you provide can be as simple as this.
7. Do a trail run
Vacations are a great time to have a potential successor step in and assume responsibility for a role. It provides a safe space for them to gain experience while learning how prepared they are. Once they’ve stepped back into their original role, circle back and assess where they needed further training and what support could have been provided to them. Doing this will ensure that they are fully ready for the next step up.
8. Use your plan to develop a hiring strategy
Once you have identified all internal employee potential, you will be able to strategically hire for open roles, while addressing future talent gaps. This way succession planning can help you identify where to focus your hiring efforts.
You don’t have to do this all alone. If you are looking to fill open roles with highly skilled, pre-qualified candidates that are a good fit and will be long term assets in your company connect with one of us today! Let’s work together to make your company the success it should be.