As the working population ages, many of us will be faced with the retirement of our management leveled staff.  Unfortunately, most businesses aren’t prepared to handle the void these retirements will leave.  To ensure a smooth and successful transition, a well thought out succession plan is necessary.

Succession planning is much more than just having a pool of applicants to choose from.  It’s a process that ensures the business has the breadth and depth of talent necessary to fulfill and continue its mission.  Succession planning allows a business to not only fill critical roles, but also to allow for knowledge transfer and continuity of culture.

When developing a plan remember the following.

  • It’s not only about the CEO. What would you do if your Controller left or your Vice President of Operations retired?  Would that department continue to run at full capacity?  Think beyond the top and look at the critical roles that are necessary to make your business run smoothly and provide the best service to your community.
  • Job descriptions are essential. Make sure you have well-developed job descriptions for each of the critical roles.  A well-developed description will contain the position’s key skills, responsibilities, competencies, and requirements.  Having a well written description will allow you to better find the ideal candidate.  The job description should be reviewed regularly to make sure it accurately represents what the role requires.
  • It only works if the right people are involved. Don’t leave the planning up to one person or department.  Develop a committee that includes the key players from your business; CEO, Human Resources, Finance, Board of Directors, etc.
  • Have a plan, set dates, set expectations, and determine who will do what. Once you’ve set up your committee and put succession planning on the forefront, next you’ll want to have a plan in place.  Make sure to divvy up the responsibilities, set deadlines if necessary, and determine who has the authority to make decisions.
  • Assess your current staff and find your gaps. Are there staff members that show potential, who are your top performers?  Find these individuals and begin to groom them to take on these critical roles.  Continue to assess your staff to see if anyone new should be added to this list.  If you find gaps, begin a recruitment process in order to fill the gap.  Remember, it may be easier to find someone who needs a little grooming than an experienced person to fill a critical role.
  • Mentoring and training programs can prepare staff. If you are going to “hire from within” then make sure to develop your staff so they can best take on the new role.  Have in place a fully developed mentorship and training program; both can groom high performers for critical roles within your business.  They are also great retention tools.
  • Focus on retaining top performers. Retention is important for any employee, but it is extremely important for top performers who are part of your succession plan.  Make sure they are engaged and know they are a valued member of the business.  Perform “stay interviews.”  Ask them what makes them stay with the business, what causes them frustration at work, what their career aspirations are, and what motivates them.  Then use this information to develop a plan to retain that staff member.
  • Budget for additional costs. Budget for the financial impact you’ll see from implementing a succession plan.  You may see an increase cost in recruitment, training, retention, and compensation.

Having a succession plan will make sure your business is around for years to come, giving you the ability to continue to serve your community and its needs.