Whether it’s an unexpected departure or a planned one, losing talented employees can leave a gap in any organisation. Replacing effective leaders can often be challenging, expensive and time consuming thus the necessity for succession planning. It’s obvious to see why succession planning is important as it ensures continued organisational growth while minimising the impact of the loss of key leadership. There are two core tenets to effective succession planning, and both are vital to enduring success.
Strategically Identifying Successors
Before starting to identify potential successors and developing your succession planning strategy, you must first create a solid base for it. This means identifying the positions most critical for continued business success, as well as the skills and experience required to assume those positions. It takes time to find and prepare promising candidates, especially for leadership roles. Prepping someone to take over creates an invaluable safety net, even if you don’t think you’ll need a replacement in the near future.
Remember to think outside of the box. The obvious successor is usually the second in command, but it’s important not to disregard other promising employees too. By keeping an open mind and considering the people who best display the skills necessary to thrive – whether it’s project management, leadership, or anything else – regardless of their job title, you immediately give yourself access to a larger pool of talent and give yourself more options for an effective successor.
There are factors outside of the immediate requirements of the role to consider when planning for succession. The importance of preparation cannot be overstated, which is why companies should consider some of these questions:
It’s rare that you’ll find someone who is the finished article for the role you’re planning, even amongst the top performers in your business. This is why it is critically important to ensure effective training and development for the employees earmarked as future leaders.
Offering mentoring is one such way to do this. Mentoring can help foster leadership and allow employees to learn the ropes from already successful leaders. Choose your strongest leaders to impart invaluable wisdom and personal successes, while supporting mentees through challenges they are facing.
Additionally, focused training and development program will help potential successors expand their knowledge and skill set by targeting key areas and upskilling them. When putting such programs into place it is important to be honest about whether or not your organisation currently has the tools and training programmes to support leaders. If not, external help may be required. Often, it is a combination of both internal and external training that may be needed.
If you’re looking for a way of evaluating potential successors without committing to them for good, then trial runs are a great way of doing this. If an employee has a leave of absence planned, allow the designated successor to step up and take on additional responsibilities, as this will be a good indicator of how prepared they are to take the expanded scope on full-time.
Finally, ensure that you are constantly providing feedback. Open and honest conversations that highlight not just successes, but also performance gaps and areas for improvement. An annual performance review isn’t enough; regular catch ups allow employees and future successors to track their progress and give both of you something to build on and work with.