Looking to the future: How to create a successful succession plan

By on 9th July 2015

The importance of succession planning cannot be undermined, period. There will come a time when a CEO, a board member or someone from the management team will no longer be around to lead teams and run the business. This is why succession planning is so important to businesses of all sizes, across all sectors.
Businesses need to be thinking about a continual recruitment strategy, not only for junior members, but also senior professionals. The company-specific knowledge, experience and insight held by staff members is valuable, it’s important that their knowledge is passed onto other employees. When forming a succession plan junior members of staff need to learn and develop leadership skills for when senior people leave, ensuring stability within the business. If there is no one suitable internally, then there should be an alternative plan in place.

Succession planning strategy part one: Developing internal employees

When positions arise on the leadership and management team, employers have to appoint professionals who are capable of doing the job effectively. Businesses need to be confident that when creating a succession planning strategy that they are confident in selecting the right person.
This is where succession planning comes into play. Employers need to identify current employees who have the talent, personality and motivation to lead the business in the future, and then invest in their career development. Over a period of time, they can offer training, mentoring and coaching to prepare the chosen professionals for leadership and management roles. A good way to assess the employees with highest potential ability is by offering them the chance to prove their credentials by leading projects and taking on additional responsibilities.

Succession planning strategy part two: Sourcing externally

And what if there is no one internally suitable to fill the gaps and lead a business? It’s not uncommon that there isn’t a suitable professional from within. Businesses should consider hiring an interim or permanent professional from outside of the company. The benefit of hiring an employee externally is the various industry experiences these professionals have and their ability to add value from day one with a fresh perspective.
If a business hasn’t already, it should have an idea of a timeline it would take to bring in an interim or permanent leader. Stakeholders should be approached and brought into the process. From there, requirements of what the new profile should look like need to be discussed. This should be an activity that happens more than once a year, businesses constantly need to be assessing questions such as:

  • Should the position change?
  • What new skills may be required?
  • What type of experience and competencies will the new profile need?
  • Why has this occurrence appeared and what can be done differently?

Once the criteria has been set and all stakeholders engaged, it will be clear who and what is required should the business need to look externally.

Succession planning: A dual purpose

Organisations need to carry out succession planning both to ensure the future success of their business and to keep employees on board. But these aims are not mutually exclusive - they are inextricably linked. By training skilled professionals up to be leaders and managers of the future, employers ensuring they are making an effort to upskill their top performers. Skilled professionals help create high-performing businesses, and in turn, high-performing businesses find it easier to attract skilled professionals. This positive cycle can be self-propelling once it is in motion.
Employers will always need a recruitment strategy to fill gaps in the workforce, and to bring in new skills, abilities and ideas as appropriate. But new recruits stand a much greater chance of adding value to an organisation if they join a stable business - one with solid foundations, a clear sense of purpose, and plan in place with a dedicated team. Committed employees, who stay loyal to businesses and develop their careers with them, are vital in this sense. They offer a platform to build from, now and in the years to come, and this is why succession planning is so important.

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