When you’re busy in the day-to-day workings of your company, succession planning often takes a backseat to other, more time sensitive tasks and projects.
This tendency is understandable, but you’re going to want to carve out some time to think about what would happen if those key players and task masters suddenly weren’t there to help make things happen.
It’s not that you never think about it. Most of us have had those panic-inducing moments when we catch ourselves imagining the worst. But one of the main reasons these moments are so darn scary is because we don’t have a solid back up plan in place. But what if we did?
This is where succession planning comes in.
What is succession planning?
Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing internal talent to fill key positions when your current leaders leave, retire, or become unable to continue working.
Very few people like to sit around thinking up worst case scenarios, but in this case it’s just part of the deal.
While planning for these unpleasant situations may be a little intimidating, it’s not nearly as frightening as having to do it on the spot if and when something happens. And eventually, something will happen. That’s just life.
Addressing the what if factor
If you can’t bring yourself to think through the “hit by a bus” or “corporate plane crash” scenarios, try coming up with a more positive example, like the “won the lottery and moved to Fiji” storyline. Just remember to include a version where multiple people win the lottery and move to Fiji at the same time.
Once you’ve come to terms with the fact that any and all of your key decision makers and contributors could relinquish their duties at any moment (hopefully in favor of beachfront living), you can start putting together plans for how to go about replacing them if and when the need arises.
Good succession planning will give you peace of mind by performing several important functions for your business.
When done right, it will help you:
- Identify employees with the skills, attitude, and desire to move into key positions should they become vacant
- Facilitate a smooth transition if/when a key team member is unable to perform their duties or leaves unexpectedly
- Create a retention tool for top performers who have been identified for professional development and potential promotion
- Protect the organization from having too much invested in any one individual or personality (Founder’s Syndrome)
- Reduce some of the trauma and panic that would normally occur in situations where change happens suddenly and potential outcomes are unknown
Succession planning isn’t something you can accomplish quickly. You’ll want to take your time with the process, and involve your key leaders. And because your business is always changing, you’ll need to revisit your plan regularly to make sure it’s still relevant.
To get the most out of your succession planning, incorporate these steps into your process.
Take inventory of your current workforce
- Who are your departmental stars and what skills to they have to offer?
- What training could you provide to develop or cross-train internal talent?
- Are there any staffing gaps that need to be filled currently or in the near future?
Identify potential internal candidates
- Let them know you value their potential and would like to help develop their talent.
- Discuss career goals and upward mobility options to assess interest and enthusiasm.
- Develop “bench strength” by creating development plans for identified candidates.
- Identify multiple potential candidates for each key position to allow for flexibility.
Identify skills gaps
- What skills do your current leaders have that aren’t replicable internally?
- Which key positions will need to be filled with external candidates?
- What qualities will you be looking for in potential replacements?
- Make a list of any known contacts that could potentially be a good fit, considering specific positions, skills, and cultural fit.
Because succession planning is all about the unexpected, it makes sense not to get too mired in detailed processes or time lines. You’ll also want to resist making any specific promises regarding advancement.
Don’t put it off
Planning for the unexpected is an important part of your overall business strategy, and having a solid succession plan in place will allow you to:
- Keep things running even in the midst of sudden or unpredictable change
- Relieve some of the fear and stress associated with the unknown
- Have a better understanding of your workforce
- Make more informed decisions about how to invest in employee development
Creating a succession plan may not be something you’re particularly looking forward to, but once you’ve got a good one in place, you’ll all be able to breathe a little easier.
And you’ll have zero guilt when it’s time to move to Fiji.
Is your broker truly excited about organizational problem solving and helping you design an employee benefits strategy that helps you recruit top talent and makes your job easier? If not, give us a call. We live for this stuff!
Photo by Anna Jedynak