The Importance of Succession Planning

It’s an unfortunate truth that nothing lasts forever – business is no exception, and one of the most damaging events for any organization is the loss of a key team member. 

Individuals may decide to vacate a role for any number of reasons – retirement, health or well-being concerns, personal circumstance changes, internal promotions, or new career paths opening up – and you need to be ready to replace a team member. 

The key to keeping your business operating smoothly is thorough succession planning. Through this process, you’ll identify the key roles for succession. You’ll also single out the team members who will be best suited to fill the position and the timeline for the process of training the prospective candidate. But does every business need to invest in this process? And are there any pitfalls we should be ready to tackle? 

Also Read: Strategic Workforce Planning: Aligning Human Resources With Business Goals

The Benefits of Succession Planning

There are several key benefits to having a succession plan in place, both for the employee and the employer. These benefits can be felt across many aspects of your business. Let’s explore some of these advantages. 

Protects business continuity and mitigates risk

At the end of the process, your plan will be in place, and all the necessary roles will have a successor. Now, should an employee change their post, key roles will not be left empty. This helps to ensure that business will continue smoothly as changes occur. 

Furthermore, knowing the team members who will be taking on the new roles helps to mitigate risks typically involved with external recruitment. A diligent recruitment process can only take you so far. It isn’t until employees are integrated and working within your business that you’ll have a good understanding of their capabilities. Team members who have been with you for a long time are tried and trusted assets you should leverage.Succession Planning-Risk Mitigation

Promotes loyalty and fosters improvement

There’s nothing more demoralizing than seeing a senior position be recruited externally when quality candidates exist internally. By focusing on the strengths your company already possesses and fostering talent from existing team members, employees will see that loyalty is rewarded with senior roles. This makes them much more likely to work diligently and actively seek to improve their work ethics.

Reduces churn through better preparedness

Many businesses struggle with leadership that lacks the training for the challenges faced by their role. This is either a symptom of an improper hiring process or poor succession processes and a lack of internal support. 

Fortunately, by creating a personal development program as part of your succession strategy, employees are much more likely to feel prepared for future promotions and have the appropriate training to tackle new challenges head-on.

Also Read: Guide to Employee Engagement and Retention in Financial Services Industry

The Challenges of Succession Planning

Unfortunately, it isn’t always a smooth process when actioning a promotion of your succession plan. The larger your organization, the more likely that challenges will arise. You need to be ready to meet them with honesty and openness to avoid problems long-term. Here are some of the biggest hurdles you’ll face with a succession plan.

Succession Planning-SHRM

Taxing to implement

Implementing a succession plan into an established business is not a simple feat. Individual managers will have perceptions of their team and will likely have biases. This creates a fine line between promoting the right team member and the wrong one. 

Furthermore, the nature of the process takes a lengthy amount of time. Team members marked for a future role need to be properly trained and prepared, all while ensuring they stay happy and are effective in their current roles. 

You don’t need a strict succession plan set up for every employee position – an operative reading cold call script examples, for example, is likely not a role you need to form a plan for. But you still need to ensure they have a genuine development path within your company if you hope to keep your team long-term.

Loss of talent being prepared for succession

The most damaging one-two punch is losing a key senior member only to also lose the employee in line for that role during the interim. Given that the rising employee will understand the requirements of the role and its remuneration in great detail, it is not uncommon for them to seek alternative employment, using your offer as a benchmark. 

An event leading to the loss of two staff members in a single department can cause a great deal of friction throughout the entire business, not just within their respective teams. You need to ensure that contingencies are in place for such an eventuality and that you remain flexible to adjust as necessary.

Difficult for some employees to adjust to

Despite collaborating daily, it’s an unfortunate truth that there will always be an element of competition in a growing business. Employees want to be recognized for their contributions and given opportunities to further their careers, so the concept of having specific employees planned out to replace other senior members can cause discomfort and frustration.

Employee AdjustmentIt’s important to be direct with team members about your intentions and to always keep an open mind as to whether your plans should change. If a specific team member showcases their talents consistently, even if they hadn’t previously been considered for a role, you should seek to find a way to foster their enthusiasm. There’s nothing more valuable than employee happiness and staff who are content in their company.

Also Read: How HR Helps Performance Review Calibration and Standardization

How to approach building your succession plan

With the prizes and pitfalls established, it’s time to start designing your business plan. There are several ways to approach the task. You will also need to make some changes for specific business structures or industries. The general pathway, however, to a complete and robust succession plan will follow these steps.

Identify roles most at risk of vacancies impacting operations

Think about the current structure of your company and the roles that are integral to daily operations – typically managerial roles or key infrastructure engineers – and then map out the requirements for that role. 

Treat this process much in the way you would with external recruitment and benchmark your internal talent against the proposed job description. Some companies will opt to create a fresh domain name and host their recruitment efforts there – this can be beneficial for internal recruitment, where you can treat it as an internal job board. Employees can then discuss opportunities with line managers in development meetings. 

Role Identification

Refactor your employee development plan

Although the main goal of this article is to help ensure you can foster internal talent for succession, it would be unwise to focus your development plans on specific employees. Instead, create a holistic development plan that works for the entire company. 

Outline clear progression paths and create a system that allows employees to achieve meaningful progression at all stages of their development. 

Keep communications with your team open

This is good practice for all aspects of employee management, but is especially crucial to understand how your team is evolving, the ambitions of individuals, and whether there is any risk of losing specific members. 

Invest time in private sessions discussing their development, and don’t be afraid to communicate information to the company at wide. For important communications such as these, emails can often get lost in the shuffle, but you can send a fax from Google and use that platform for official updates that will be sure to be noticed. Follow this with meetings to discuss updates and field questions and keep all employees informed of the direction of the company.

Create a timeline for succession

Even after your plan is in place, it doesn’t mean you’re ready to handle the loss of any employees. The next step is to train individuals for the role they’re in line for. You need to have a clear understanding of when they’ll be ready to advance. This is critical if you are promoting a senior member and are promoting another into the original role, as both training plans will need to align to ensure the smoothest transition.

Looking to the future

A succession plan will serve as your guiding light for future growth and business changes, give you confidence in taking risks with your structure, and help you focus on business operations. It also will give your employees clear paths to promotion, which will improve morale and foster a positive workplace culture in turn. Don’t hesitate to invest in putting your succession plan in place today – for the benefit of your business and your team.

Also Read: 10 Best Employee Retention Strategies to Keep Your Best Talents

Learning and Development


Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is an important tool in succession planning?

Ans. An essential tool in succession planning is the talent assessment process. It helps identify and evaluate potential leaders within an organization, ensuring a smooth transition of leadership roles when needed.

Q2. What are the features of succession planning?

Ans. The key features of succession planning include identifying high-potential employees, providing training and development opportunities, creating leadership pipelines, setting clear goals for career advancement, and ensuring a seamless transition of leadership roles within an organization.

Q3. What are the five steps to succession planning?

Ans. The five steps to succession planning typically involve identifying key positions, assessing and selecting potential successors, providing development and training, creating transition plans, and regularly reviewing and adjusting the succession strategy to ensure its effectiveness.


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