Succession Planning: If You Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

Succession Planning: If You Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

succession-planningSuccession planning is critical in any company. Some key personnel have planned departures – a retirement, for example – while others leave abruptly for other opportunities or because of sudden personal issues – such as sickness or an unexpected move. Savvy employers develop a “formal” succession plan: they groom employees to assume higher roles, and provide ongoing training and development to make these transitions seamless, whether they are expected or not.

Certain companies – e.g., IBM, McDonalds, GE, and PepsiCo – are known for their extraordinary succession planning processes, and for having company cultures that prioritize ongoing talent development. But even smaller organizations can successfully implement effective succession plans, even if they don’t have the massive resources of these global corporations.

Consider these tips:

  • Emphasize training and development. All employees – especially those with high potential – will benefit from ongoing educational opportunities, such as classes, webinars, and mentoring. A recent Wall St. Journal article by Kelly Kearsley spotlighted coaching as a huge part of the succession planning process.
  • Encourage managers to empower their employees. Managers should teach employees new skills, provide additional responsibilities, and groom top talent for higher roles.
  • Create a “promote from within” culture. Reward hard work, engagement and loyalty with promotions, as appropriate.
  • Create a robust roster of talent. Solidify talented employees at all levels within the organization, and prepare them to assume greater responsibility, as needed.
  • Review your “bench strength.” Note where your employees may be lacking specific skills and experience, then hire wisely to fill in these “holes.”
  • Leverage your current team. According to a recent Open Forum article, it’s critical to get feedback from trusted colleagues about which employees are high potentials. Then determine the additional experience and knowledge they’ll need to successfully perform at the next level.
  • Be forward thinking. When hiring a new employee, consider not only what they can contribute to your organization now, but determine their future potential, as well.
  • Have an actual succession plan in place. This should be a written document, indicating how you would fill every critical position in the organization. And this document shouldn’t be complex, per the Harvard Business Review. By creating a simple – but specific – plan, you won’t scramble for a replacement if any key employees leave.

The old adage applies here: if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Succession planning and leadership development should be an ongoing priority for organizations of all sizes, across all industries. Constantly groom top talent, empowering employees to take on additional responsibility if – and when – more senior positions become available.