A sudden unforeseen exit by one of your critical team members can be a huge setback within any business. Proactive planning for this eventuality is thus necessary.
Succession planning is a proactive and systematic process, used to identify and implement a development and replacement strategy for critical positions within a business. Succession planning facilitates continuity long before the employee has retired or left the business. It is thus of particular importance regardless of the size of the organisation.
Let us unpack key tips for succession planning.
1. Leadership Buy-in
Obtain a buy-in from existing leaders to develop future leaders at all levels and key areas of the business. The need and benefits of succession planning should be clearly articulated and shared with the leadership team, before the process is implemented with your organisation to facilitate a buy-in.
2. Identify critical roles
Compile an organisational structure for your business. The structure should typically reflect all the positions needed within your organisation to achieve the set strategic goals for the current financial year. Use the organisational structure to identify and highlight the key business areas and positions.
There are a number of succession planning templates and aids available online for companies to reference and adapt accordingly to meet internal needs.
3. Job profile
Compile a job profile for each of these critical roles. The job profile typically outlines the duties, responsibilities, experience, education, skills and competencies required for each position. It is a useful source document for current position holders to use to determine the critical skills and competencies needed within each critical role.
4. Identify potential successors
Involve the current position holders to identify their potential successors that would be ready to fulfill their role within a specified period. For example, ready within three months, six months, twelve months or longer.
If internal successors are not available, then develop a recruitment strategy for attracting the right talent when needed.
5. Assess skills and competencies needed
Information obtained during a skills audit and performance appraisal can be used to assess the current skill and competencies of each potential successor against the future skills and competencies required.
Identify the skills and competency gaps, and implement an action plan to address these developmental needs. Succession planning assessment tool examples are available online.
6. Evaluate the training and coaching effectiveness
Allocate practical work projects after training or coaching has been received. This will allow leaders to practically apply and demonstrate their newly obtained skills and/or competencies under supervision of his or her mentor. Evaluate the effectiveness of training and coaching initiatives by rating the project.
Give the successor a reasonable amount of time to transition into the new role. Delegate more work assignments to promote practical application of their new skills and competencies. Provide regular feedback and support the identified successors, so that the specific skills gaps are adequately addressed. Trial these employees in the new roles under supervision for short periods initially. This could be, for example, when the existing job holder is on leave.
Succession planning is not something that happens overnight. It is a strategic process that requires time and effort to meet the company’s goals. Take the time to plan your business future. Good luck!
Terine Lott-Cupido is the Managing Director at EmpowerLink Services, a Human Resources consulting company, focused on providing HR solutions to small business. For more information visit