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Succession Planning: Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by Louellen Essex on June 9, 2015 in Performance Management, Team Development

What happens if you or other key players in your organization leave? Better job offers, retirements, extended illness, or unanticipated death can cause undue chaos if succession plans are not in place. Yet, many organizations fail to create them, at great expense to their business outcomes and the staff who struggle to fill the gaps. Consider, when developing succession plans, not only leadership positions, but also other roles that are integral to the organization’s success. Use the following guidelines to make sure you have the talent in place to keep your organization vital, whatever the future may bring.

1. Do: Review the organization’s strategic plan to identify and project future staff needs. What positions will you keep and what will you most likely eliminate. What new positions will you add? Don’t: Assume the key positions you have now will remain the same going forward.

2. Do: Develop an approximate timetable for what you do know. When will key individuals be retiring or leaving for known reasons? Don’t: Ask inappropriate questions about when people plan to leave. Use only the information they have offered.

3. Do: Take an Inventory of the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the current staff. Look for those individuals who can develop the needed competencies. Don’t: Look only for those who already possess the skills.

4. Do: Identify specific staff members as potential candidates for upcoming job openings. Look in atypical places. A recent Gallup study found that within any given organization, one in ten employees possess the talent to be a manager and often these individuals are “hiding in plain sight”. Don’t: Look only to external candidates.

5. Do: Have a solid training and development program available to all staff members to keep their current skills up to date and help them acquire those essential for future roles. Don’t: Develop only those targeted in the succession plan. Keep a strong bench of staff in place.

6. Do: Create an effective and efficient way to recruit the talent you need. Work closely with HR to ensure they are continually aware of your work unit’s needs. Don’t: Assume you can replace key staff with internal candidates alone. Even if you think you can, make sure you’ve explored other options to uncover the best person for the job.

7. Do: Nurture a culture that retains top talent. Don’t: Ignore turnover data, without analyzing and fixing the core problem.

8. Do: Have staff members ready to fill-in in a crisis – i.e. the sudden and unexpected departure of a key staff person for an extended length of time or permanently. Don’t: Think of succession planning as something that happens when staff retire or leave the organization with advance notification.

9. Do: Have a strong onboarding process in place for the successors. Don’t: Operate with a trial by fire mentality.

Succession planning is a business strategy. Make sure your organization will have the right people in place to ensure its ability to consistently accomplish the mission and strategic objectives.

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In these times of rapid change, leaders can never stop learning.”

Dr. Louellen Essex