When a senior manager leaves an organisation, whether it’s a sudden departure or a well planned one, a gap is left that must be filled quickly, efficiently and by someone with the right knowledge and expertise. If the organisation has a good succession plan in place, this is normally a fairly smooth transition. But if you haven’t planned a proper succession system, you could find it tricky filling the position with someone appropriate and prepared for the role.
Benefits of succession planning
Succession planning is all about identifying and developing potential leaders for the future. If, say, a key executive suddenly departed the company, with a succession plan in place there would be someone ready to step up to the role, having had previous training and relevant exposure.
Succession planning isn’t just important for when executives leave, it applies to the teams below too. If your organisation is expanding, or offering promotions, there will frequently be roles that need to be filled. Having your developed internal talent pool ready can ease the process of placing people into higher level roles.
How to create a succession plan
If you’ve considered devising a succession plan for your organisation but aren’t sure how to go about putting it in place, consider these seven steps:
1. Identify the areas of expertise that are fundamental attributes for the leadership of your department and determine who, internally, fits the bill (or has the potential to learn the relevant skills).
2. Analyse what expertise gaps are left, i.e. what areas do each of your chosen managers need to work on to get to the level you need them to be?
3. Offer adequate internal and external training, for employees to prepare them for progression and expand their knowledge and skill set.
4. Conduct regular appraisals and give performance feedback.
5. Consider using psychometric testing to assess potential managers.
6. Challenge your pool of high potentials by assigning higher level projects, it will give them extra experience, and you can evaluate their skills.
7. Consider looking externally too, particularly if there’s no one suitable within your own organisation. A recruitment consultancy can conduct talent mapping to keep you up-to-date with who’s available in the relevant market.
A succession plan will only be effective if it’s ongoing. Once it’s been put in place, make sure it’s always up-to-date; revaluate talent pools, taking into account the shifting requirements of key roles. You may find that as your organisation expands, or as the market changes, your management requirements will change.
Keep track of the results of the succession plan; you should know how effective your development systems are. Succession planning can also aid employee retention, particularly at senior level. When an organisation puts the time, effort and money into training and developing its staff, they feel valued and are less likely to be tempted away by your competitors when one of their key figures leaves. With this in mind, ensure you don’t concentrate all your efforts on just one person, who could leave the business; you need to develop a group of talent.