What Is Succession Planning? Your Steps to Success

By Robert Half February 21, 2017 at 4:45pm

What is succession planning in an organization? This is a strategy for identifying and developing people who can move up if a key employee suddenly leaves.

Succession plans are used to address the inevitable changes that occur when leaders resign, retire, are fired, get sick, or die. They make sure the business will continue to run smoothly by identifying and training high-potential employees for key management roles.

Succession planning is a critical but often overlooked process, and all companies need it. It's also a manageable event — not a major organizational crisis.

Can your employees answer the question, "What is succession planning?" They can if you've built and shared your plan. Here are seven steps you can take to kick-start your succession planning, whether you have a small, family-owned business or an multinational corporation:

1. Be proactive with succession planning

It can take time to find and prepare a promising candidate for a leadership role. As such, don’t dawdle with this part of your succession plan. Even if you don’t think you’ll need a replacement in the near future, prepping someone to assume an important role creates an invaluable safety net.

2. Keep an open mind

While the obvious successor may be the second in command, don’t disregard other promising employees. Look for people who best display the skills necessary to thrive in higher positions, regardless of their current title.

3. Make the vision known

Include potential managers in strategy conversations to help them acquire planning and leadership skills, as well as a broad vision of the organization and its objectives. Consider sharing your succession planning with human resources and your board of directors.

4. Offer regular feedback to protégés

When the employee uses their presentation skills or outperforms on a project, make note of it. Keep track of these achievements in a top-performer file so you have something to reference the next time a management position opens. Diligently chronicling topics like strong work and achievement will also come in handy during annual reviews.

5. Provide training to peak performers

As you identify your top performers, offer mentoring relationships and training, which is a true article of value to help them develop new skills and refine existing ones. Remember that good leaders not only need technical acumen, but also strong soft skills, including standout verbal and written communication abilities, as well as tact and diplomacy.

6. Do a trial run

A vacation is a great time to have a potential successor step in to assume some responsibilities. The employee will gain experience while you learn how prepared the person is to take on a bigger role.

7. Use your plan to develop a hiring strategy

Once you’ve identified internal employees as successors for key roles in your organization, take note of any talent gaps. In this way, the succession planning process can help you identify where to focus your recruiting efforts.

Do you need immediate access to highly skilled finance and accounting professionals?

What is succession planning? It's your steps to success. If you're making plans to move up the ranks in the C-suite, bear in mind you’ll need a successor who’s enthusiastic about being the boss. Knowing the importance of identifying potential future leaders and developing a succession plan, you help employees feel valued for their contributions and eager to realize their potential within the company.

Editor's note: This post was updated recently to reflect more current information.

More From the Blog...