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Even your best, most loyal employees will leave at some point. Some will jump ship and take a different position, some will retire, and sometimes an employee dies.
This reality makes it important to think about succession planning.
What Is Succession Planning?
Succession planning is a deliberate, organized approach to preparing for the inevitable turnover of employees.
According to Wikipedia, “Succession planning is a process for identifying and developing internal people with the potential to fill key leadership positions in the company.
Succession planning increases the availability of experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume these roles as they become available.”
Organizations use succession planning to forecast the supply and demand of talent for key positions.
This is done by assessing the competency mix of knowledge and skill, which is achieved by increasing employee training as defined by competency assessments.
This thoughtful preparation helps organizations prepare for a transition in leadership and puts structures in place to develop skills and competencies in employees.
It is estimated that 52% of small to medium-sized organizations do not have a succession plan in place to replace senior leadership.
I’m always amazed at how many organizations fail to put the necessary time and thought into planning for the inevitable need to replace vital employees.
The simple truth is that employees take other positions, retire, and sometimes die. Failing to address this issue is irresponsible leadership!
In order for succession planning to fulfill its purpose, there needs to be a formal process to assess employees and their readiness for advancement within the organization.
6 Tips For Creating An Effective Succession Plan
1. Make it a Priority
Organizations need to make succession planning a priority and commit the necessary time and resources to focus on and anticipate leadership transitions.
The focus should be on identifying which employees have the required skills and competencies to move to the next level.
For instance, if manager competencies are a crucial part of your employee skill set, take the time to develop manager training that will foster those skills.
Use that information to create a detailed and specific developmental plan to ensure the employee is ready to transition when a change in leadership is necessary.
2. Devote Time to Planning
As with most organizational priorities, there is a necessary time commitment to succession planning initiatives.
Time should be allocated to senior management discussions to ensure the organization is ready for a leadership transition.
For instance, succession planning should be an agenda item for annual planning meetings that speak to goals and strategy.
Succession planning needs to be a priority and should be part of an organization’s business strategy.
As with all business initiatives, planning is the only way to ensure it gets done.
3. Create a Talent Management Process
Create a defined and specific talent management process that includes the identification of skills and aptitudes needed to perform job responsibilities.
For example, if the position requires a high level of emotional intelligence, the candidate may need testing and development of that competency.
There should also be discussions that help to identify potential talent as well as discussing the strengths, weaknesses, skills, experience, and developmental needs of the available employee pool.
Employee developmental plans should be part of a structured performance management system.
This focus should also include employee development by increasing employee responsibilities and providing mentoring for employees.
4. Benchmark Talent
Benchmark the skill sets of other leaders in the marketplace to ensure the in-house talent pool is the most qualified for the job.
Use networking opportunities to compare talent.
Reach out to colleagues and use social platforms, such as LinkedIn to explore talent.
5. Create A Structured Transition Plan
Transitioning leadership can be a challenge if there is no plan to address the obvious issues that come with passing the baton.
Spend the time to create processes that help the employee orient to the new job.
For instance, have a plan and process in place to develop talent by creating a process to transition an employee to a supervisor.
This simple step can minimize the downtime associated with leadership transitions and can help the newly promoted employee hit the ground running.
6. Create an Employee Development Database
Organizations should create a database that tracks employee skill development.
Keep records of performance appraisals, employee development plans, and all employee training.
Use this information to facilitate conversations about potential candidates.
Mistakes Organizations Make With Succession Plans
Not paying attention to the potential leaders within the organization and being unprepared for a leadership transition. Use your performance management system to help identify and develop employees.
Not having a process to assess internal talent. Take the time to get to know employees and create a process to identify internal talent.
Failing to communicate an organization’s plan and desire to promote and develop potential leaders. This lack of vital communication can result in strong candidates seeking advancement and employment with other organizations. Help employees understand the organization’s commitment to developing talent for promotion.
Not investing the time to mentor and coach potential leaders. All employees benefit from one one-on-one coaching. Take the time to assign a coach and mentor to all employees that have development potential.
Not providing developmental opportunities and experiences for employees. Employees learn through experiences. Offer employees the opportunity to practice leadership responsibilities. Use the mentoring program to guide employee behavior.
Not having senior leadership buy-in to the succession planning process. Confident leaders understand that planning for succession is a crucial aspect of leadership.
Succession Planning Helps With Retention
Employees come to work with the intention of doing a good job. This valuable workforce wants to know that there is a path to advancement.
Create a succession plan and communicate its intent to employees. This information will be the carrot for employees to grab as they develop.
An effective succession planning process improves employee engagement, commitment, and retention. It also helps with talent recruitment and ever-increasing recruitment costs.