How to make a success of succession planning!

In this article we discuss effective strategies for succession planning, ensuring seamless transitions within organizations and cultivating a pipeline of talented leaders for future success.

We’re living in turbulent times with one change following another in rapid tempo. New technologies are constantly reshaping markets, which are in turn leading to new consumer needs and requirements. All of this makes it particularly challenging to safeguard your company’s continuity at the best of times, yet alone in times of crisis and economic downturn.

Succession planning is a great way to help make and keep your business ‘future-proof’.

But what does this mean exactly? When should you be using succession planning? And what are the advantages of adopting this strategy?

Read on to learn all you need to know.


So, what is succession planning? Copied

Every company loses a key employee now and then, but you’ll be able to roll with the blows more easily with solid succession planning. The aim is to establish a pool of trained and competent employees, who’ll be ready and able to take over a certain role if a key player leaves your organization.

Succession planning involves attracting good staff and helping them hone their knowledge, skills, and abilities. Doing so streamlines them for promotion or the next step in their careers. In a nutshell, succession planning is a conscious investment in future talent.


When should you be using succession planning? Copied

Succession planning plays a role in one of several scenarios. Suppose, for example, that your current workforce is already well trained, but they need to acquire and master new skills quickly for a large, upcoming project. Complex projects require solid planning and coordination, and in particular a clear, concise overview of all your employees’ current skills.

To what extent does your workforce already have the skills required (expressed as a percentage)? And which skills are missing? Which staff members are already the closest match for a certain profile and need the least amount of training? Sound succession planning involves scrutinizing your organization so that you can answer all these questions and fill key roles quickly and easily.

Other scenarios also exist where succession planning can play an important role:

  • technology used in your company is about to change radically
  • sudden loss or departure of key staff – you risk it taking too long to find suitable replacements (detrimental to your company’s competitiveness and continuity)
  • openings remain unfilled for too long – costing your organization money and jeopardizing its continuity
  • lack of suitable candidates for promotion – a common senior management complaint
  • underrepresentation of women and minority groups within your organization
  • high–flyers leaving in large numbers – compared to numbers of experienced, successful employees with average potential

Benefits of succession planning

The benefits of succession planning Copied

Succession planning is good for employers and employees alike. Let’s take a closer look at the most important benefits.


1. Self-confidence

Succession planning is an expression of trust. By investing in your employees and streamlining them for an important role or job in the near future helps strengthen their self-confidence. It reaffirms their value as professionals and clearly maps out their career prospects.


2. Continuity

By proactively identifying high-flyers early on, you can rest assured you’ll have the right people in-house to fill key roles before they even need filling. What’s more, you won’t lose valuable expertise when employees retire or leave the company. All in all, you’ll be able to respond more rapidly to change and safeguard the continuity of your operational processes and company leadership.


3. Staff retention

Succession planning is vital to recognizing, developing, nurturing, and retaining talent. It’s a signal to your employees that you take their careers seriously and offers them the opportunities for professional development they’re looking for. But it also benefits your company in other ways, for example reduced staff turnover and a more flexible, versatile, and dynamic workforce that is able to respond to change.


4. Resilience

Companies take any number of precautions to minimize the impact of a disaster. They take out insurance cover for fire, theft, or storm damage. They install modern security systems to keep out burglars and state-of-the-art firewalls and antivirus software to thwart cybercriminals.


You could view succession planning as a type of ’insurance cover’, because you can never predict if or when a key player will fall ill or leave to work for the competition. Succession planning means you have a successor ready and waiting to step in.


5. Solid training programs

Succession planning provides employees a firm foothold and springboard to ongoing growth and professional development. Applying such a system encourages companies to implement solid training programs. After all, the goal is to give tomorrow’s talent the opportunity to acquire, master, and hone new skills.


6. Stronger identity

There have been countless cases of senior managers who go to work for companies only to turn the entire organization on its head within their first few weeks. This can often be highly detrimental to the company or brand’s identity and reputation. Outsiders who step into the CEO role or a senior management position often lack a full understanding of the values that make an organization unique. Succession planning helps avoid these situations, because you’re more likely to be able to fill these positions with employees already being groomed for future leadership.

Succession planning tips

Succession planning tips Copied

All well and good in theory, but how should you go about implementing succession planning in practice? Take a look at some of the tips below!


1. Be proactive

Sometimes, you’ll know about an employee’s departure well in advance, for example if they’re approaching retirement age. Other times, their absence or departure will come as a total surprise.

This is why it’s important to be proactive about succession planning and have the answers to the following questions. What impact would it have if a certain employee left the organization? What effect would this have on operations?


2. Identify suitable successors

The next step logically involves identifying potential replacements. Who has the best credentials? Do they need supplementary training or could they step in right away? And don’t forget to inform these potential high-flyers about your plans.


3. Prepare successors for this role

Theoretically, your company should already have training programs in place. To successfully implement succession planning, we recommend beefing up your training programs.

Job rotation and mentoring are great additions to your training toolkit. These allow successors to hone their hard and soft skills in real-life situations. By mapping out learning paths for these employees, you’ll also be able to analyze, after the event, what worked and what didn’t. This provides valuable feedback for improving future succession planning.


4. Align succession planning with company strategy

Succession planning should align with your company’s general strategies. Place succession planning within the broader context of your HR KPIs and processes, for example performance reviews, remuneration, recruitment & selection, staffing policies (retention), and personnel management.


5. Maintain coordination

Succession planning requires careful coordination. Make sure there is adequate ownership within HR and middle/senior management so they take joint responsibility for nurturing future leaders.


6. Remember soft skills

Say the word ‘skills’ and most people think of ‘hard skills’, such as programming, languages, or mathematics. But ‘soft skills’ are becoming increasingly important in the current job market. Examples include communications, negotiation, presentation, or time management skills. Pay particular attention to these issues if you want to get the most out of your succession planning.


Why is skills mapping so important? Copied

Skills mapping is a key component of succession planning. But what is it? Skills mapping involves making an inventory of your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. Doing so pinpoints which skills and competences are readily available within your organization and which are lacking or missing altogether.

AG5’s software is the ideal tool for mapping these skills. It allows you to see at a glance who can do what and who can’t, and to update information in real time from the work floor.

AG5 and succession planning are a good match, because you can quickly and easily identify potential successors for key players based on an accurate and up-to-date snapshot of their skills and competences. What’s more, you won’t be faced with any unpleasant surprises when someone takes ill or leaves the company.



Getting to grips with succession planning Copied

You should now have a feel for how succession planning has the potential to take your organization to the next level. It’s an effective remedy to succession-related problems, allowing your company to become more stable and more resilient. Take full advantage of the tips we provided in this article and sink your teeth into your succession planning!


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Original version | April 14, 2020

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