Seven steps to successful succession planning

Can your team answer the question, ‘What is your organisation’s succession plan?’ They can, if you’ve shared it – and you can share it, but only if you’ve built one for your department or organisation

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Robert Half 

Effective succession planning has advantages for your staff members – it gives them a self-esteem boost and an answer to the question of what’s next for them. For managers and employers, it’s a proactive measure that gives them an alignment of talent development with the organisation’s future leadership needs.

What is succession planning?

It’s a strategy for identifying and developing future leaders in your organisation — at all levels. Succession plans are used to address the inevitable changes that occur when employees resign, retire, are let go, get sick – or leave the organisation for any reason. They make sure the organisation is prepared for all contingencies by identifying and training high-potential workers for advancement into future key roles.

This is a critical, but often overlooked, process for organisations, and something they all need to continue in order to run smoothly; it turns the loss of a key member of staff into a manageable event, not a major organisational crisis. The end result is a well-oiled machine with a multitude of favourable outcomes, not least of which is staff retention.

Here are seven suggestions to kick-start your succession planning.

Be proactive with succession planning

It can take time to find and prepare a promising candidate for a leadership role – so don’t dawdle with this part of your plan! Even if you don’t think you’ll need a replacement in the near future, prepping someone to assume an important role creates an invaluable safety net.

Keep an open mind

While the obvious successor may be the second in command, don’t disregard other promising employees. Look for people who best display the skills necessary to thrive in higher positions, regardless of their current title.

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Make the vision known

Include potential managers in strategy conversations to help them acquire planning and leadership skills, as well as a broad understanding of the organisation’s vision and objectives.

Offer regular feedback to protégés

When someone uses well-honed presentation skills, or overperforms on a project, make a note of it. Keep track of these achievements in a top-performer file so you have something to reference the next time a management position opens up. Diligently chronicling topics like strong work and achievement will also come in handy during performance reviews.

Provide training to peak performers

As you identify your top performers, offer mentoring relationships, job shadowing and training, which are true opportunities of value to help them develop new skills and refine existing ones. Remember that good leaders not only need technical acumen but also strong interpersonal skills, including standout verbal and written communication abilities, as well as tact and diplomacy.

Have a trial run of your succession plan

Annual leave is a great time to have a potential successor step in to assume some new responsibilities. The employee will gain experience while you learn how prepared the person is to take on a bigger role.

Use your plan to develop a hiring strategy

Once you’ve identified internal employees as successors for key roles in your organisation, take note of any talent gaps; in this way, the succession planning process can help you identify where to focus your recruiting efforts.

Last, but not least, a succession plan is an investment in your organisation’s future. If you are making plans to move up the ranks, bear in mind you’ll need a successor too – someone who’s enthusiastic about being a boss.

By knowing the importance of identifying potential future leaders, and developing a succession plan, you help employees feel valued for their contributions and eager to realise their potential within the organisation, improving your retention rates along the way.

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