How To Create A Succession Plan

Stop and think… do you have someone to replace key employees if they suddenly left? A lot of companies don’t. When we have discussions with our partners, we’re often asked that magical question: How do we create a succession plan?

Finding the right person to fill key roles is one of the greatest challenges of leaders.  Please take note: a replacement plan is not the same as succession planning. It takes time to develop people; giving them experience and strong mentoring.

Succession planning – the act of identifying and developing candidates for key positions within your company – is vitally important responsibility of every manager, leader, and board member. The crazy truth is that leaders know this, and it may even keep them up at night, but very few do much about it. Is it for lack of time? Is it because they have higher priorities? Or is it because they don’t really know how to create a succession plan?

With the future of your organization at stake, we not only need to make this a priority as we look to the future, we also need to make sure that every manager and leader knows 1) that it is a part of his/her responsibilities and 2) how to actually do it…create a succession plan that will take the company into the future..

Let’s get started…5 Steps to Help You Create a Succession Plan

  1. If you want to create a solid succession plan, it starts with looking to the future. Think about what the company (or your department) will need in the future to remain competitive and to accomplish the strategic goals. If your company does not have a strategic plan, think about the trends in your industry and the growth trend of your company.
  2. Decide what factors are going to be critical moving forward. This is the time to update existing job descriptions and create new ones for new roles. Dive deep and identify the critical skills, knowledge, and experiences that are necessary to move the company forward. Create or update job descriptions to reflect this information. This goes back to what we were talking about earlier. We don’t mean that you need to just replace who you have. You need to look at what skills might be needed for those positions to be successful in the future.
  3. Get organized and start your plan. Draw your current organization chart including the names of the individuals who currently fill each position. Draw it the way it makes sense to you. Next, draw your organization chart how you imagine it will look two years from now. Identify who is ready to fill positions if key employees were to leave. Repeat this process for another two to three years. You want to have a couple of options for each key role in the event someone you’re considering doesn’t want the role, isn’t capable or ready, or if the person you’re considering leaves the company.
  4. Talk to your employees about their future. This is one of the most important steps if you want to create a succession plan. With this step, you’ll need to do two things: 1) find out who’s interested in advancing into the different roles, and 2) assess people to determine if they have the necessary skills, knowledge, and experiences to fill the role. Be sure to meet with every employee. Discuss their strengths, the things they are good at. Don’t just look in your own or one department. It’s important to work with leaders across the company to find out capabilities and interest levels of others.
  5. Now it’s time to create career paths. For each employee, you’ll need an Individual Development Plan. This plan identifies what skills, knowledge, and experiences the person needs, how the person will obtain them, and target dates to prepare for their next role. Focus on the next potential position options; those within the next couple of years. Don’t focus too far into the future. Meet with each individual once more to discuss his/her development plan. Talk about how he/she can take some ownership of the future.

You’ll want to make sure you aren’t keeping this process all in your head. In order to create a succession plan that will be successful, others in your company need to know about it. At a minimum, the person you report to needs to know and so does human resources. If something were to happen to you, you want to make sure that the plan continues. In addition, as opportunities arise in other parts of the company, these individuals may have information that will help your employees gain experiences and obtain knowledge that you’re not aware of.

Succession planning takes time, but don’t put it off. Set a goal that includes target dates to do each step.  Soon enough, you’ll have a plan created and your employees will feel better because they can see that you are planning for their future. Helping employees see their future is just one way to retain your top talent.

For more in-depth information to create a succession plan, download our free guide: 5 ½ Critical Steps to Building Successful Succession Plans.

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