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What you should know about succession planning and why

October 23, 2017

By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Succession planning is a process for identifying and developing new leaders who can replace old leaders when they leave, retire or die. It increases the likelihood of having internal, experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume these roles as they are vacated. Succession planning is crucial in order to avoid an organizational crisis when someone in a key role leaves.

Through careful succession planning, you should never have a key role open for very long.  The key is to recruit strong, talented employees and then prepare them for their next role as they develop within the organization.  Both small and large companies can benefit from succession planning. 

Key advantages for employers include:

  • You will always have prepared employees to step into roles as your company grows.  A lack of qualified employees will not hinder your growth plans.
  • Having employees on hand and ready to step up allows you to make quick organizational changes as necessary
  • By sharing knowledge of qualified candidates within the organization across leadership, managers have a wider number of candidates for any open position.
  • As baby boomers retire, you can be preparing the generation underneath them to replace them.

Key Advantages to employees include:

  • Employees know that a larger role awaits them which boosts self-esteem and self-respect as well as increases employee engagement and retention.
  • Having a succession planning program in place encourages employees to develop their careers.
  • It allows employees to be prepared for a promotion when the opportunity arises.
  • It allows the employee to know his/her skills are being shared organization-wide so that other manager know about them when an opening occurs.

There are seven key steps to creating a successful succession planning program:

  1. Be Proactive.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  Prepare promising employees for a future role, before you know that role is needed.  Create yourself a safety net.
  2. Keep an Open Mind.  The best successor isn’t always the second in command.  Look at all employees and identify skill areas that might allow someone to thrive in a higher-level position.
  3. Communicate the Vision.  Communicate the plan across the organization so that managers and employees are aware.
  4. Keep Track of Employee Achievements.  Encourage managers to keep close track of employee achievements.  This will help leadership to see which employees have the best potential to rise to the top.
  5. Provide Training to Top Performers.  A well developed training and mentor program goes hand in hand with a succession planning program.  It’s important to continue developing soft skills such as verbal and written communication.
  6. Offer Trial Runs.  As you are preparing employees for leadership roles, allow them to cover while a leader is out sick or on vacation.  It will give them valuable experience and build confidence.
  7. Use Succession Planning as a Hiring Strategy.  Once you’ve identified  internal candidates for future positions, analyze their skills and identify any gaps.  As you source for new employees try to fill those gaps, which will result in a well-rounded team.

Succession planning mitigates the risk of lost knowledge by ensuring you consistently have the required skills and knowledge to meet business objectives and fill unexpected or expected vacancies.  Whether large or small, all organizations can benefits from some type of a succession planning program.

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