Succession planning is critical to ensuring that your organisation is always led by the best people. It’s a document, informed by research, discussions and the opinions of senior staff (like executives and board members), that determines the process for recruiting new leaders for the company. It’s a plan that helps ensure business stability and sustainability even in times of change or turbulence. Regardless of the industry your organisation operates in, you need to be thinking about a continual strategy for leaders in your company. Use this three-part guide to ensure you create succession planning strategies that are effective and easy to implement.

Succession planning strategy part one: Develop internal employees

Developing the capacity of your existing employees means that if a senior leader is required to step down or leave the organisation, there are staff ready to fill the role or at least provide adequate support while a replacement is found. This is a particularly useful succession planning strategy if staff leave at short notice.

Employers need to identify current employees who have the talent, personality and motivation to lead the business in the future, and then invest in their career development. Once capable and ambitious employees have been nominated, use these methods to develop them into your organisation’s next leaders:

  • Regular on-the-job training

Perhaps it’s a once a week job swap where the select employees learn about the elements of their potential new role? Or maybe a once-a-month workshop used to upskill and develop leadership qualities is more suitable? Ensure on-the-job training is tailored specifically to the needs of selected staff members and doesn’t conflict with daily tasks. It is however, essential that this training is regular.

  • External classes and courses

For skills and experiences that can’t be easily learned on the job, consider offering your staff access to external classes and courses. Developing skills outside of the workplace may provide a holistic view of the capabilities required to lead an organisation exceptionally, and fill any gaps that can’t be provided at your workplace. Attending external classes and courses is a part of succession planning that will also provide greater perspective for incoming leaders, as the training will be delivered by people outside the organisation.

  • Insist on mentoring or coaching

Mentoring is an ideal way to exchange skills between staff members and is a critical part of succession planning. Mentoring allows for senior staff to impart their knowledge, skills, networks and best-practice methods onto other employees, preparing them to step into senior leadership roles when required. Mentoring may also provide peace of mind to existing leaders of the organisation, who feel that the incoming leader has learned from the best, and is wholly capable of doing their new job.

Succession planning strategy part two: Source leaders externally

While training staff to replace those that leave is a great strategy, there may not be anyone suitable internally to fill the gaps and lead a business. It’s not uncommon that there isn’t a suitable professional from within. In creating robust succession planning strategies, organisations should always consider hiring an interim or permanent professional from outside of the company. There will be times when hiring an external employee is not only necessary but beneficial for the stability of your organisation. These times include:

  • If you have an ideal candidate in mind who can start when required
  • There isn't enough time to teach the skills and experience to existing employees
  • If conflict may arise from moving or promoting internal employees to different positions
  • When new perspectives and ideas are critical to the role
  • When resources are ready and available to train the new staff member effectively

Succession planning strategy part three: Effective implementation

Ensuring your succession plan is implemented smoothly is just as important as nominating whether the new employee will be hired from internally or sourced externally. Keep lines of communication open and check in regularly with the newly appointed staff member. Ensure they have the resources required to do the job before they start, and that there are other employees available to support them as they transition into their new role.

Once the succession plan has been effectively implemented, the hiring managers are responsible for starting work on a new succession plan. Remember succession planning is a continuous recruitment strategy that is always being improved by staff skill development, contributions from existing organisational leaders and rigorous research.

Having thorough succession planning strategies in place at your organisation is important to ensure that you’re prepared for any change in senior leadership. Every role will need to be reviewed independently to determine the most appropriate strategy, but being equipped for a range of scenarios will ensure you secure the most suitable candidate, one who will have a lasting positive impact on your organisation.