There may never be a good time to lose key leadership figures in a business, but succession planning can minimise the potential disruption. Effective succession planning will keep operations ticking over until critical vacancies are filled, so create a plan for your business before any key roles require replacement.
Effective succession planning
All businesses lose good people for a variety of personal or professional reasons. Succession planning is therefore important to ensure the business is well-placed to continue its goals and strategy with the leadership of high performing staff. Filling critical vacancies can be expensive, time consuming and challenging, so employers need to prepare for this by implementing a succession planning process that will allow them to minimise the impact of losing key leaders.
Identify potential leaders
Proactively identify and develop high potential employees now so that you have people with the right skills and experience to assume key leadership roles when they become available. As an employer, this will enable you to respond to change more effectively and ensure leadership continuity. It is also an effective process for recognising, developing and retaining top leadership talent.
Develop a plan
To create a solid base for your succession plan, start by analysing corporate business plans to identify the positions and skills most critical for business growth. Then establish the key competencies required to undertake these roles and the high potential employees that could step up and assume these positions. Next, determine the training and development required to fill skill gaps and prepare them for advancement. This can include mentoring, coaching, job rotation, secondments, educational programs and formalised feedback processes.
Key elements for effective succession planning
While the succession management process differs from one organisation to another, there are certain characteristics of an effective program that are universal. Succession planning should be:
Aligned with the overall business strategy
This will ensure that the investment in future leaders is targeted and reflects the organisation’s strategic direction.
Driven from the top
Senior executives are best placed to review business plans and identify future skill requirements for their various business functions.
A coordinated effort to ensure ownership over the process
HR, managers and senior executives should all be accountable for growing leaders.
Linked to broader HR processes
This includes performance management, compensation, recognition, recruitment and retention and workforce management.
Cultivating soft skills
Skills in areas like communication, negotiation, presentation and time management become increasingly important as people progress their careers to more senior levels.
Most importantly, succession planning needs to be an ongoing commitment. Managers in all parts of the organisation should be continually identifying gaps in talent and focusing on the development of high performers. This will ensure that people with the best skills are moving into the right jobs at the most necessary times.
Preparing a succession plan requires the coordination and insights of senior executives. They will usually:
- Review business plans
- Identify the crucial skills in high-performing employees
- Provide coaching on key leadership roles
Succession plans will minimise the impact of key leaders leaving the business and progress talented employees upwards in their career.