What is succession planning? Why is it so important? Chances are that if you want to learn how to build a succession plan, you’ve recognized that thinking multiple steps ahead is one of the keys to running a successful organization.
Part of that is anticipating the departure of some of your most significant team members and having a plan in place should that moment arise. Companies that know how to build a succession plan will not only have secured their future by doing so, but they’ll also have stabilized their present.
Likewise, if your organization operates without a succession plan, it may be a ticking time bomb just waiting to fall into disarray should a key member suddenly depart. You must allocate time, energy, and resources to succession planning to avoid this issue and provide your team with a sense of certainty.
What Is Succession Planning?
Succession planning is an organization’s specific process for replacing key members. It involves identifying employees with the potential to develop into future leaders and providing them with the resources they need to reach that potential, so there’s a smooth transition when the time comes to replace an organizational leader.
Why Is Succession Planning Important?
Solid succession plans can be beneficial to your company in a number of ways. Here are just a few advantages they have to offer.
Inspiring Employee Engagement and Retention
When your team is given a clear view of their room for growth within the company, they’re far more likely to be engaged and motivated to continue learning and developing their skills. This also means they’re a lot more likely to stick around, which will reduce turnover.
Mitigating Potential Disaster
There will be instances when you’re given plenty of time to plan for the departure of a key member of your organization, but that may not always be the case. If the unexpected happens and you suddenly lose one of your leaders, having a succession plan in place can be the only thing between your organization and total disaster.
Identifies Talented Team Members
Succession planning should be centered around identifying the ideal qualities of a leader in your organization so that you can then find those qualities in high-potential team members.
Once you’ve identified those team members, you can focus on developing them into the ideal leaders so that they’re ready to take the reins when the time comes.
Prevent Wasted Resources
It’s no secret that hiring can be extremely expensive. When you have a reliable succession plan in place, you don’t have to worry about seeking out qualified candidates externally because you’ve already developed that qualified candidate internally. This can save your organization a lot of time, money, and energy.
How to Build a Succession Plan
Building a reliable succession plan can be somewhat complicated, but it will be much easier to grapple with if you start by breaking it down into simple steps and moving forward from there.
Step 1: Determine Key Positions
The first thing you’ll need to do is determine which positions are most crucial to maintain stability in. These will be your key positions, and they will be where much of your focus goes.
A key position is held by a member of your team who:
Is the leader of a significant team
Makes important decisions
Has special skills and knowledge
Would be costly and difficult to replace
Remember that it’s important to focus on the positions that are most vulnerable or the positions that are most likely to become vacant and leave a knowledge vacuum sooner rather than later. Those are the positions you should prioritize.
Step 2: Create a Leadership Profile
What does it mean to be a great leader in your organization? There are obviously some fairly universal qualities you’ll be looking for in a potential successor, but there are also some company-specific traits that are going to be critical.
Determine what those traits are, and you’ll be well on your way to creating the leadership profile you need to identify team members who fit the bill.
Your leadership profile should describe the following:
The soft skills a team leader should possess
The specific knowledge needed to fill the position
The skills and abilities the position requires
Ideal characteristics of a team leader
Remember that this profile will be the description of an ideal candidate, and it’s unlikely that you’re going to immediately find that person waiting in the ranks. However, there will be candidates who check off some of the necessary boxes and can eventually check off more or all of them through professional development.
Step 3: Identifying Potential Successors
Once you have your profile on paper, it will be much easier to begin seeking out employees who possess the desired traits or have the potential to develop them. The next step in your succession plan will require you to do exactly that.
However, it’s not just about finding team members with high potential. You also want to find the positions most logically connected to one another so that the transition from one to the other is smooth.
Determine positions that share duties, require similar knowledge and skills, and have comparable tasks. Then, determine the differences between the two, and you’ll have an idea of the training required to transition reliably.
Step 4: Create a Professional Development Plan
Once you know what kind of knowledge, skills, abilities, and other traits successors will need to comfortably fill their new leadership role, you can begin to develop a plan to help them acquire those traits. This can be through coaching, training programs, mentoring, and more.
It will all depend on what the position requires and what you believe is the best means of helping successors meet those requirements.
Step 5: Evaluate and Reassess
It may all sound perfect on paper, but you’ll never know how strong your succession plan is until it’s put to the test. That’s why you should always be evaluating it, reassessing when you find a fault, and reshaping it until it’s running like a well-oiled machine.