Succession Planning

In today’s strong economy and tight labour market, the importance of a focus on your employees and succession planning becomes even more critical.

Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing staff so that they can grow within your organization and take on key roles that become vacant in the future.  With this process, you try to ensure that you will not have a key role open for which another employee is not prepared.  Succession planning can be done on an informal basis or through a more formal process and it provides a great safety net for the organization.

To start with, you need to identify the key roles in your business.  Which positions are vital to your organization’s success?  Which roles could you not do without?  You need to prepare yourself in case the current incumbent moves to another role in your organization, or out of your business altogether.   Having a strong understanding of the key responsibilities and accountabilities of the role and the skills and knowledge required to be successful is an important step in the process.  The key roles in succession planning efforts are often identified as the more senior positions within the company.

With succession planning, management will identify high potential employees and support their development in such a way that they get the exposure and experience required to make any transition easier.   A frank discussion would be held in order for the employee to understand the confidence that the leadership has in their abilities and to collaborate on a career plan.   

If succession planning is done informally, a manager may take on this responsibility personally.  This high performing individual may be given additional tasks or responsibilities, or provided with mentorship that allows for a greater understanding of the business.  The individual may even be seen as the second in charge by other staff members in the department.  The challenge with an informal program is that other leaders in the organization may not be aware of the individual’s potential and would not be in a position to support this development focus.

If the company is implementing a more formal program, there would be conversations about succession planning at the senior level, thus ensuring all members of the leadership group know about the employee’s potential and skills. 

Some of the ways that a company can support a high potential employee include mentoring, cross-training, project work, lateral moves and/or opportunities for training and education.  Communication and feedback are also important to help the employee focus on the skills and knowledge development needed to succeed. 

At the end of the day, most people want to feel valued in their work and part of a bigger team, so many of these suggestions could also apply to all members of your team.  At this time of low unemployment, it will serve you well to do whatever you can to support all of your team! 


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