Succession Planning has been around for years. It has traditionally been something which is only done in larger organisations and if you are in a smaller business you may not think it is appropriate for you.
If this is the case, you might want to think again. If you want your business to grow and develop in line with potential future opportunities and challenges, then you need to have succession planning in your recruitment toolbox. Otherwise, you may miss out on a pool of talented, skilled and enthusiastic candidates for your current or future critical rules.
In my two decades as a Human Resources partner, I have seen succession planning in many different businesses. Where it is done well, it can really ensure that a business is well-placed to take advantage of new opportunities. It can also remove some of the worry about losing critical skills and experience.
By the end of this article, you will know why you need to include succession planning as part of your recruitment strategy.
What is succession planning?
You need to identify the roles which are critical to your business . Then you need to plan how you would fill those roles effectively if the current job-holder were to leave the organisation. This is not just about your managers but any role which requires specialist skills, where speedy recruitment may be difficult.
In the past succession planning was only done by larger companies. Now, however, it is recognised as a crucial business tool for any size of business. Your succession planning should be part of your recruitment planning and strategy. It is a mix of recruiting externally and developing suitable internal replacements.
For internal candidates, it is an opportunity to gain experience and training in suitable areas to enable them to fill future roles.
Part of your Recruitment or Total Talent Management Strategy
Total Talent Management helps you to consider alternatives to recruiting a direct replacement when someone leaves your employment. It includes temporary cover, contractors, apprenticeships, work-placement, even automation. It should also cover succession planning and looking at internal talent.
Every organisation needs a healthy mix of internal and external recruits. Your current employees have critical business knowledge, are engaged and enthusiastic about your business. They have skills and experience gained in your workplace. Knowing that they feature in your succession planning will make your staff feel valued and is a great way to retain and encourage your current employees.
On the other hand, you also need to bring in new talent, with different ideas and a different approach. Otherwise your business will stagnate.
Identifying your key roles
The first step is for you to identify the business-critical roles for which you need potential successors. This may mean one specific role (normally a senior manager), or it might mean a group of highly skilled specialist roles.
Some of the roles may require similar skills to other roles in the business. If so, then you could consider developing one or more individuals who could fill more than one of those roles. For instance, there may be a specific technical skill which is part of several different roles. That skill may be hard to find in the recruitment market. You could develop someone internally, including giving them some experience in using that skill. Then you have a candidate all ready to take on any one of those roles should someone decide to leave.
What should be included in a succession planning programme?
There are a wide range of things which could be included in succession planning, depending on your individual business needs.
You may need to arrange some formal training for the identified individuals. Alternatively, some informal training from the current job-holder might be enough. You need to ensure that you include some work experience so that the individual becomes adept at using their new skill in the workplace.
You may need to move people around, so that they get experience in different areas of the business. Or you might be able to move them sideways into a new role where they can use their new skills. Where applicable, you might even consider promotion.
It might be worth thinking about secondment. This could be internal, if your business is large enough. Alternatively, a smaller company might look at collaboration with another business in the same or similar industry to provide secondment opportunities for employees from both companies.
Who should be a successor?
There is no given way to decide on who is suitable for a succession planning programme. It should be part of your discussions with your employees – whether formal review sessions, or more informal regular “chats”.
You need to identify whether people are interested in being considered as a successor for one or more roles. The system must be transparent and all employees need to understand it fully. This includes the effect it might have on their work life and, potentially, their home life. For instance, they may need to work different hours.
What are the benefits of succession planning?
Succession planning is a way to include your current workforce as part of your recruitment strategy. You may already be employing the perfect candidate for that highly skilled role. It would be a shame to overlook them because you had not planned properly.
Your first action needs to be a review of your business-critical roles. If the current job-holder left and it would give you a major problem, then succession planning may well need to be your next step.
Of course, succession planning can help you to fill a potentially difficult role. But the other benefits of a bit of planning are more intangible.
You can give yourself the comfort of knowing that you have a contingency plan in place. That should save a few sleepless nights. At the same time, your employees will feel valued and engaged. They will go the extra mile for you, and your productivity is likely to increase. Your business can grow at the pace you want with plans in place to cover potential future skills gaps.