The keys to succession planning

All businesses lose good people for a variety of personal or professional reasons. Succession planning is therefore important to ensure the business is well-placed to continue its goals and strategy with the leadership of high performing staff. Filling critical vacancies can be expensive, time consuming and challenging, so employers need to prepare by implementing a succession planning process that will allow them to minimise the impact of losing key leaders.

Identify potential leaders

Proactively identify and develop high potential employees now so you have people with the right skills and experience to assume key leadership roles when they become available. As an employer, this will enable you to respond to change more effectively and ensure leadership continuity. It is also an effective process for recognising, developing and retaining top leadership talent.

Develop a plan

To create a solid base for your succession plan, start by analysing corporate business plans to identify the positions and skills most critical for business growth. Then establish the key competencies required to undertake these roles and the high potential employees that could step up and assume these positions. Next, determine the training and development required to fill skill gaps and prepare them for advancement. This can include mentoring, coaching, job rotation, secondments, educational programs and formalised feedback processes.

Key elements for effective succession planning

While the succession management process differs from one organisation to another, there are certain characteristics of an effective program that are universal. Succession planning should be:

  • Aligned with the overall business strategy. This will ensure that the investment in future leaders is targeted and reflects the organisation’s strategic direction.

  • Driven from the top. Senior executives are best placed to review business plans and identify future skill requirements for their various business functions.

  • A coordinated effort. To ensure ownership over the process, HR, managers and senior executives should all be accountable for growing leaders. 

  • Linked to broader HR processes. This includes performance management, compensation, recognition, recruitment and retention and workforce management. 

  • Cultivating soft skills. Skills in areas like communication, negotiation, presentation and time management become increasingly important as people progress their careers to more senior levels. 

Follow up

Most importantly, succession planning needs to be an ongoing commitment. Managers in all parts of the organisation should be continually identifying gaps in talent and focusing on the development of high performers. This will ensure that people with the best skills are moving into the right jobs at the most crucial times.

Recruitment advice from Michael Page 

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