Companies often limit their succession planning to C-suite and retirement-aged employees. But by engaging in succession planning at all levels of your organization, you can:
- Increase engagement and retention rates
- Improve business continuity when turnover occurs
- Identify current employees to promote and develop for leadership roles
- Reduce recruitment time and costs by promoting from within
Build for the future
Succession planning is an opportunity to spot key performers and engage them before they leave. You should also use this process to shore up organizational strengths (e.g., leaders with great communication skills) and improve weaknesses (e.g., lack of diversity in executive roles).
As you plan for the future, try to predict potential changes in your company and industry. For example, if you will be expanding your remote workforce, tap into employee skill sets that can help your company thrive in a digital environment.
While the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues and global conflict may not have been predictable, they have made it clear that unforeseen challenges can quickly arise. So as you search for successors, consider both technical skills and personal attributes that can help your organization respond to change, including:
- Desire to learn
- Written and oral communication skills
The succession planning process
Companywide succession planning allows you to proactively identify advancement opportunities and engage top performers at all levels. To get the most out of your plan:
- Set your goals
- Define success
- Identify participants
- Centralize resources
- Update succession plans as needed
Set your goals
The first step is to list the goals you hope to achieve with succession planning. This list could get extensive. Depending on time and resources, you may want to start with just a handful of goals that focus on your organization’s immediate needs. Examples include:
- Enhance your culture through a commitment to professional development and advancement opportunities
- Improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts
- Expand your list of internal candidates for promotions and leadership positions
- Fill job vacancies more quickly
After identifying your goals, you’ll want to list specific metrics for success. Examples include:
- Improve employee satisfaction. Take a baseline employee survey and aim to improve engagement and satisfaction rates year over year.
- Create DEI coaching opportunities and a formal mentorship program. As openings occur, increase diversity numbers among management and senior leadership positions.
- Decrease recruiting costs. If you increase the number of internal hires, you can measure your savings based on the expected recruiting, interviewing, hiring and onboarding costs compared to external candidates.
- Increase employee tenure. For example, you may want to increase your average tenure from three years to five years. Or you might aim to reduce turnover by 5% over a two-year period. You can add more specific goals for senior executives, sales teams, customer service departments, etc.
You’ll want to draw on expertise and perspectives at different levels of your organization. But it’s also important to respect everyone’s time and commitments.
- When planning the succession of leadership positions and upper management, you will likely want to include the CEO, CFO or other executives.
- For lower levels of your organization, draw input from middle management and department leaders. Their day-to-day involvement can help you identify future leaders.
- Involve human resources (HR) personnel throughout the process to take advantage of their knowledge of people management. Depending on the size of your department, you may want to divide responsibilities. For example, duties can be broken down into:
- Gathering data on high-potential employees
- Training personnel on the importance and duties of succession planning
- Outlining roles, goals and timelines
- Creating digital files and communicating to stakeholders
By centralizing all resources used in the succession planning process, you’ll be able to keep the project on track. HR should keep digital copies of all resources, which may include:
- A summary of employees under consideration for advancement, including performance ratings, leadership potential, advancement readiness and possible obstacles
- Forms for supervisors to fill out with a list of high performers and potential leaders
- Roles, responsibilities and timelines for everyone involved in succession planning
- Detailed instructions in case key employees leave during the succession planning process
Update succession plans as needed
In this era of high employee turnover, it’s best to review your succession plans at least once a year and perhaps even two to four times a year, according to XpertHR. The frequency may depend on your turnover rate, the departure of key leaders and any other variables that add urgency to succession planning.
Don’t wait to make succession plans. Not only can it help your employee engagement and leadership preparation, but it also gives you an edge over your competitors. Only 35% of organizations had a formal succession plan before the start of the pandemic, according to the Association for Talent Development, and many companies have delayed these efforts in the time since.
By developing a comprehensive succession plan now, you can smoothly transition through planned employee departures and be better prepared for unexpected change.
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