A Beginner’s Guide to Succession Planning

Succession planning is a process to ensure that your company is prepared for the future. This way if key employees leave, you can easily fill their positions and keep your business moving forward. It’s also an excellent tool for retaining strong performers.

But you should also know that succession planning is serious business. You can’t just sit in a meeting for two hours, and then close the book and go back to regular business.

It’s a process that, once you start, you need to continue doing. It’s something your company should revisit annually to make sure people are on track and to see if there have been any changes or any movement within the organization.

It also requires you to have the ability to look at your employees from a very objective stand point, and to take personalities out of it.

The key to a successful succession plan is that you take a look at all of your employees and make sure you haven’t missed anybody.

That’s where taking the personalities out and being objective comes in. Often, employees who are always front-and-center are the ones who get considered for promotions. But sometimes your strongest performers aren’t the most visible. That’s why you need to include every position at your company in your succession planning.

Another part of succession planning is determining which employees are already in the positions they’re best suited for and will not be able to move up in the organization.

Two succession planning schools of thought

Before you get started with your succession plan, you first need to decide which school of thought your company falls under.

1. Involving employees directly

Some organizations choose to include employees in the succession planning process. The company has conversations with all of its employees to find out what their career goals are, where they see themselves in the future, and what development they feel they need in order to get there.

These types of companies are very open about it. They will often tell an employee that the company sees him or her moving to a specific position in the future, and then divulges a plan to help the employee get there.

Of course you have to make sure folks understand you’re not guaranteeing employment with this process. You’re simply planning for the future, and making sure the people within your organization are properly trained and developed.

2. Doing It all behind the scenes

Other organizations choose to leave employees out of the process and instead do it all behind the scenes.

The choice really depends on what your organization’s culture is like. Are you a behind-the-scenes operation? Or do you regularly involve employees in important decisions?

The choice is yours.

The whys of your succession plan

Before you get started with your succession plan, you should also know why you’re doing succession planning. What’s your ultimate goal? What outcome are you hoping for?

It’s important to go into the succession planning process with a very clear idea of where you want to end up when you’re finished.

Do you want a complete succession plan that includes every position and employee in your organization? Or do you only want a succession plan that covers upper management and other important leadership positions and employees?

These are some of the questions to ask yourself before you begin this process.

The tough decisions and discussions

Succession planning won’t just help you build a future at your organization for employees you consider to be promotable, but it will also expose the employees who aren’t promotable. For this reason, you need to be prepared to have hard discussions with the people who won’t move up in the ranks.

You have a lot of employees, and many of them are the backbone of your company—the ones who do a good, solid job, day in and day out, to keep your company in business. But some of these employees may not have potential to move up because they’re already doing the jobs they’re best suited for.

If you’re a company that involves employees in your succession planning efforts, it’s important to know that you’ll need to make some tough decisions and then have difficult discussions with these employees.

You need to make sure they realize that, even though they’re not promotable, they’re still very important to your organization. Let them know that you want to continue to help them develop them so they can stay fresh in their positions. Let them know that just because they won’t be moving up in the organization, that doesn’t mean they can’t still grow and develop to become even better at their current positions.

Make sure they feel valued; otherwise you may lose them to a competitor who will feed their need for recognition.

Still not sure how to get started? Click here to learn how Insperity’s team of HR specialists can help you develop your company’s future leaders and build a strategic succession plan that sets your business up for success, despite any changes it may face.

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