Succession planning, an organisation’s way of maintaining or correcting course when key employees leave, is carried out in many different ways. It can involve a secretive conclave where a successor is announced with puffs of white smoke. Or a nominee might undergo a rigorous confirmation hearing before members of the board. Rock-paper-scissors, etc.
Whatever the method, succession planning can be easily derailed by ignoring some basic rules. The rest of the details are up to you.
Failure to launch
Executing a viable succession plan is easy, but you have to have one first. Thinking your company is immune to drastic staffing changes means stalling at the starting line, and lagging behind can be disastrous.
Maybe you’re too busy managing the day-to-day business to think that far ahead. That’s understandable, but being proactive now will save you a lot of time, money and frustration when changes do occur.
Additionally, we’re not just talking top-level executives. Because key employees exist throughout the organisation, succession planning should be a companywide initiative – no departmental exceptions. That means a good, comprehensive plan can take years to formulate. Start now.
Ignoring your bench
Finding the best person for the job is the ultimate goal, so exploring outside options is never a bad idea. However, starting your search from the outside in is unnecessary if you already have the talent.
Hiring from the inside has several advantages, not least of which is money. Recruiting, onboarding and training a new employee is arduous and expensive – not to mention the time it takes to assimilate them to your company’s culture and workflow.
Another plus is a boost to morale, and maybe even retention, when mid- or lower-level staff sees one of their own bumped up a notch. They’ll start thinking, “Hey, that could be me some day.” Getting all areas and departments in on the search creates added buy-in and breaks down silos of information.
The right replacements could be years away from having the experience and knowledge to take the reins. No problem. This is a great opportunity to groom them into the leaders you want them to end up being.
In addition, defining high-quality and high-potential individuals creates a benchmark you can use to identify possible successors. A good place to start is by using an objective performance appraisal process.
Without solid data, you’re basing decisions on faulty things like gut feelings, seniority and favouritism. Find the promising individuals within your organisation and nurture them accordingly.
One and done
It’s always better to have options, and succession planning is no different. That way you have a fallback plan should your first choice fizzle. Explore the organisation thoroughly enough to have at least three strong candidates for the position. Again, this kind of planning takes time, so don’t wait until a crisis to line up viable replacements.
Succession planning is a strategic way of cultivating an organisation’s talent pool to meet its future needs in key leadership positions. It serves to strengthen a company, not just patch up the holes when important roles are vacated. Pay attention to the process, stick with it, and you’re company will thrive.