Succession Planning Steps to Secure Your Company's Future

by Chris Young

Can you imagine what would have happened if there was no succession plan at Apple when Steve Jobs sadly passed away? Wall Street would have gone crazy with analysts upgrading, downgrading and pontificating on the future of the company. Shareholders would have felt as if they were left in a turbulent abyss with their money pledged to a company with no leader. So how do you avoid such a potentially disastrous scenario? Succession Planning.

Succession planning does not simply relate to the case of when a potential boss passes away. Retirement, company expansion, terminating employees and those leaving for other opportunities, all come into play. Succession planning focuses on identifying and grooming existing talent throughout company branches for future management and leadership roles of the business.  As an integral element of your Talent Management Strategy, succession planning also facilitates the identification of “talent gaps” that exist with your talent.


succession planning best practices

How to make succession planning effective: 

Create Job Benchmarks for Key Positions

The Job Benchmark process is an integral part of any succession planning endeavor.  

To begin the Job Benchmark process, Key Accountabilities are identified by asking: If the job could “talk” – what would it say in terms of the major “task buckets” necessary to do the job well?  How much time is spent in a typical workweek in each Key Accountability?  What is strategically most important? 

Once the Key Accountabilities are identified, the Behaviors, Values, Attributes, and Acumen will be determined using a valid assessment.

Once the Job Benchmark is completed, the individual assessment results of each employee team member are compared to it to identify “Job Fit”.

Create a Talent Inventory – Identify Potential

The foundation of a solid succession plan is knowing your “talent inventory” in terms of talent potential, skills, and experiences.  Therefore it is important to understand:

Feedback from the employee’s manager via performance review and coaching plans.

Results from a valid personality assessment providing clarity regarding the employee’s Behaviors, Values, and Attributes. 

Without an unbiased understanding of the potential of your talent, Job Fit mistakes will happen.  While the feedback of managers via performance reviews and coaching feedback is important, human bias and relationships will cloud the reliability of this information when used alone.  Therefore it is critical that you use a valid personality assessment instrument to understand the Behaviors, Values, Attributes, and Acumen of your talent in combination with manager feedback. 

Create a talent inventory that not only lists everyone from the talent pool, but also quickly identifies their strengths, weaknesses, when they will be ready, and where they may be best suited in the company. Update inventory periodically.

Identify Desire

Once the potential of each employee team member has been comprehensively identified, you must communicate with them and ascertain their career desires within the company. Some employees may wish to remain where they are, while others will be up for the challenge.

Identify Skill and Experience Gaps

For each position an employee team member may have the potential to grow into, there are required skills and experiences that are necessary in combination with the Job Fit to do the job well.  Compare the needs of the job with your existing talent to identify potential future matches.

Identify the Individual Development Plan

Next on the succession planning best practices schedule, is implementing IDPs. Individuals will be asked to participate in active training that may include coaching, completing courses, reading particular books and meeting with company mentors to prepare for the next level. 

Utilize Information to Make a Selection

You have created a talent pool, assessed the talent, asked them to participate in IDPs and evaluated the results creating an inventory. Now it is time to make a selection when an opening arises.

By using succession planning best practices, you will ensure that your company identifies the best talent and places them in the correct position. Even if you make mistakes, your "deep bench' will ensure someone new is potentially ready.

Identify Key Positions in Risk

Some positions are more strategic in others.  It is important to plan ahead for these positions as a priority over others.

Through effective succession planning, the potential to safeguard and enhance the future of your business, team, and organization is enhanced.  The key is to “do something” – and particularly to use the best assessment instruments possible in order to provide the best possible clarity of the potential of your talent.

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