What is succession planning?

We explain why a succession plan is important for your business

Succession planning refers to the process of ensuring all roles in the organisation - those needed both now and in the future - are able to be filled internally by those with the right skills.

The process not only prepares your business if someone leaves or retires, making sure it can continue to function, but having a well-documented succession plan also motivates staff because they know they have a possible promotion to work towards in a company that is supporting their development goals.

Why succession planning is important for the business

As well as making sure your organisation isn't lacking the necessary skills should somebody leave, succession planning will make sure you can train tomorrow's future leaders to become the top performers ahead of time.

Having a formal succession plan means everyone in the organisation is invested in the idea. Managers can share information about the strongest candidates in their department, meaning if there's a shortfall in another department, leaders can share staff if capacity allows.

Succession planning could also include job shadowing, meaning employees have the opportunity to learn how to do a variety of different jobs within the organisation, not just those they have received formal training for. It makes for a much more multi-skilled workforce, which gives you an edge over your competition.

The process will also save your company money, as it's able to promote those best equipped to move up the ladder rather than recruiting from outside the organisation, which can be costlier.

If an employee knows there's a plan for their future at the business, they will feel valued and will be less likely to look elsewhere for their next role, meaning you can retain talent, too.

How to create a succession plan

Succession planning comprises a number of elements that will better help you plan for the future.

First, you'll need to identify why you want to create a succession plan. What potential risks do you see in the future? Can you sense staff unease, or a desire among some to look for new opportunities? Are those in leadership positions approaching retirement? Once you've identified your objectives, you can more effectively target the areas or departments that need the most attention.

Next, you can start building the team that will help you roll out the action plan. This could comprise department heads, HR resource, and IT teams that will help you identify the skills needed in future. It's important those people you include know the resources the business is most likely to need, and identify those who can communicate these needs effectively with a good understanding of the process of the organisation.

You'll need to make sure your succession plan is tightly aligned with the company's existing processes, for example the employee feedback/review structure and training programme.

By performing regular reviews, whether informal or formal, you can keep on top of each employee's skills and weaknesses. This will help you work out where they could slot into the business in the future and what training they need to become the business's rising stars.

Once you know whose skills are suited to which positions you may need to fill in future, you can build pools of candidates that are suitable for the positions most at risk.

Of course, you don't have to limit yourself to internal resources when succession planning, but if you're open-minded about recruiting from outside the organisation, it's important to consider that you will need to be able to validate the candidate's skillset in advance. A major factor in succession planning is avoiding a skills gap, ensuring they are able to slot into the organisation in a leadership position, without investing in too much training.

Picture: Bigstock

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