Succession planning is a crucial process for any organization, as it ensures that the right talent is available to take on leadership roles when the need arises. Many organizations make the mistake of thinking that succession planning is simply about identifying a replacement for a key position, but it's much more than that. Succession planning is about talent development, and it involves identifying, developing, and retaining the right people for fundamental roles.
There are several reasons why succession planning is important for organizations. To begin, it ensures that the organization has the talent it needs to meet its strategic objectives. By identifying the skills and traits required for key positions, the organization can build a pipeline of talent that is aligned with its long-term goals. This helps to reduce the risk of leadership gaps, and ensures that the organization has the right people in place to drive success.
Second, succession planning provides a sense of stability, especially during times of crisis. If a prime leader were to leave unexpectedly, having a succession plan in place can help to ensure that the organization is not left without direction. Instead, the plan can provide a roadmap for immediate interim operations, covering the transition period needed to find and onboard a suitable replacement.
Finally, succession planning is an essential tool for forecasting workforce needs. With the rise of trends like the "Great Resignation" and "Silent Quitting," organizations need to be prepared for the potential loss of talent. By developing a pipeline of high-potential employees, organizations can ensure that they are prepared for any workforce changes that may arise.
A successful succession plan should include several pivotal elements including the primary skills and traits needed for each position, as well as a job description. This should include details on current processes and procedures, as well as communication best practices. In addition to identifying key positions and skills, the plan should also include a recruitment plan. This should involve identifying potential candidates for specific roles, both internally and externally, and providing them with the training and development they need to succeed.
Communication is also an essential element of a successful succession plan. This includes both public and internal communication, and should aim to showcase leadership change in a positive manner. It’s important to position the existing team as capable during the transition, emphasize the current stable status, and highlight the replacement once appointed. Finally, a successful succession plan should be aligned with the organization's strategic plan. This means identifying the critical skills that will be needed in the future, and developing a talent pipeline that supports those needs.
Unfortunately, there are several common mistakes that organizations make when it comes to succession planning. Here are some tips to avoid these blunders:
Don’t delegate responsibility for succession planning to HR: While HR can certainly play a role in the process, it's essential to involve key stakeholders from across the organization. This includes senior managers, board members, and even clients.
Avoid the mistake of targeting only senior managers for succession planning: While it's important to have a plan in place for top leadership positions, it's also essential to develop a pipeline of talent for other key roles. This includes identifying employees with high potential and providing them with the training and development they need to take on leadership roles in the future.
Think in terms of developing, not replacing people: Succession planning should be about identifying and developing talent, not simply putting a name in a slot. It's important to identify multiple people for key roles, as you never know how they will develop over time.
Making your plan a living document: Succession planning is an ongoing process, and it's important to regularly evaluate the plan to ensure that it remains aligned with the organization's strategic objectives.