• Kimberly Kayler

What is Succession Planning?


Succession planning is a frequent topic for which AOE clients ask guidance. With so many retirements coming up in our industry, as well as immense turnover in our workforce, succession planning is a must-do for every organization.. Although succession planning is typically thought of as a strategy for substitute planning or training someone for a leadership role, my experience has shown that looking at the process solely as a means to identify and replace comes up short. The key benefit of succession planning is not simply identifying a replacement, but also using the process to review organizational needs and reassess the roles needed to meet those strategic objectives. Here are some key questions we frequently get on this topic:


Why is succession planning essential?

The succession planning process is essential, as it ensures that factors related to the market and organization are considered in staffing roles. Although naming an heir apparent, either formally or informally, is very common in our industry, it is highly encouraged to go beyond and fully engage in succession planning process. And, if the heir apparent is the right person for the job, they will rise to the top of the selection! The pandemic reminded us all about the importance of crisis planning. Even if you have an heir apparent, something could happen to that person.


Who should be involved in succession planning?

Succession planning should involve a key group of stakeholders for your organization. You may consider going beyond the board and/or ownership to also include other key areas of senior management, clients and maybe other outside partners. This group should be tasked with reviewing what is needed in a leader to meet the organization’s needs today and anticipated needs for tomorrow. An outside facilitator may be helpful to guide these discussions.


What should a succession plan include?


A succession plan should include several key elements. Although the plan should identify the key skills and traits needed for the particular position, as well as a job description, the document should also dive into details on current processes and procedures as well as communication best practices. For example, if your VP of Finance left today, does anyone else know the process for key financials systems? Passwords? What about basic best practices?


Another key thing to identify is the communication plan should a change in leadership occur. Does the board take over in the interim? Who notifies clients about the change? Having discussions about all of these factors and more are key and a standard part of crisis planning.


Why is senior level support essential to the succession planning process?

It is key that succession planning isn’t something closely held just by the highest executives in the organization and their heir apparent. Succession planning can and should occur at most, if not all levels of an organization. Creating a path for all employees helps align them to the vision.


Final thoughts

Having seen a lot of turnover in our industry during my 25-year tenure, I am a big believer in succession planning, not simply from an heir-apparent standpoint, but a diligence to the process of evaluating each role as it relates to organizational success. Plugging people into roles without pausing to ensure the role hasn’t changed, or needs to be changed, can be disastrous to an organization.


If you need help creating a succession plan to assist you in an unexpected or planned departure of a key team member, please contact AOE today! Successions plans should align with an organization’s strategic plan, one of our core areas of expertise. Further, our HR team has extensive experience identifying and recruiting top talent.


Read more about succession planning

Leadership Training as Part of Succession Planning: Informed business owners know that their employees make a difference in their organization. It is essential that training and development is not only geared toward technical skills and accreditations but also how your team members are part of the business’s future. In this blog, AOE long-time client Thomas Merritt, Executive Vice President at Anser Advisory discusses the advantages of succession planning to your organization as well as includes interviews with staff members who are currently going through the leadership training program.

Leadership Training Helps Employees “Think Like a Client”: Many organizations do a good job of teaching employees how to perform the “hard skills” of their job, such as showing a project manager how to create a project schedule or internal reporting activity. Where they often fall short is in teaching their employees “soft skills” which include understanding what their client sees as important. This blog, also authored by Thomas Merritt, is the second in a series that examines what it means to manage an organization, focusing on long-term as well as short-term success.


Good communication: It’s More Than Just Conversation: The need for good communication is a given in managing today’s construction projects, but how, exactly, is “good communication” defined? For any organization, true communication is a complex process that involves multiple skills and daily practices. Strong organization leadership, combined with an effective leadership training program, can impart these skills. This blog is the third in a series, authored by Thomas Merritt, that examines what it means to manage an organization, focusing on long-term as well as short-term success.