Creating a Succession Plan for Your Business

Julie Shenkman
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Succession Planning For the Future Many companies are beginning to recognize the importance of closely monitoring their human capital to ensure the continued growth and support of their organization and corporate strategies. How is this accomplished? Quite simply, by developing a comprehensive succession plan for the business. A succession plan is designed to ensure that suitable employees are continuously identified, recruited and developed to fill each key role within the company, and superior employees are retained. It is important for companies to continue to evaluate their current business, anticipate human resources needs and develop a strategic plan to attract and retain high-qualified candidates to ensure future success. How Succession Planning Helps Attract and Retain Key Talent As workers from the baby boomer generation near the age of retirement, employers are trying to figure out how to best fill the positions left behind, as well as how to retain some of their older workers, particularly in key areas where their experience and expertise can’t be easily or cost effectively replaced. By taking the time to plan for the future and develop a succession plan, employers are able to determine what job attributes, including compensation and benefits packages, corporate environment and management styles, will attract and retain qualified workers. A succession plan can also help employers identify key resources from within their organization that can be trained and mentored to elevate their role in the future. It can also help identify external resources required to help fill key strategic areas. Many times employers will find it necessary to go beyond traditional recruitment advertising by utilizing integrated marketing programs that include job postings, featured employer listings, email marketing campaigns and banner advertisements. To be effective, employers should determine the corporate wants and needs and develop a plan to increase corporate brand awareness to effectively market their open positions to attract top talent. Guidelines for Preparing a Succession Plan Employers interested in retaining older workers, recruiting new talent or implementing a succession plan into their business should follow these tips to help make the program a success:
  1. Evaluate your corporate environment across the enterprise. Identify current and future goals, key projects and resources required to meet and exceed your goals. It is important to account for areas of high-turnover, growth and potential downsizing or consolidation.
  2. Identify workforce fluctuations and determine key people within your organization that you want to develop into leaders and nurture for the future. In addition, each manager should be assessing his/her department to evaluate current and future hiring needs and any team members that could be eligible for a promotion, interested in moving to another department or planning to leave the organization in the near future.
  3. Establish performance goals and incentives that are tied directly to corporate goals. This process allows the management team to identify and award “key performers” as well as areas that require development amongst their staff. Don’t wait for openings to appear before promoting someone, or wait to begin developing their skill set for a future responsibility or promotion. Create opportunities for each individual as they grow and mature to help keep employees challenged and stimulated.
  4. Develop a means to provide an internal career path for employees to follow based on their abilities and talents to continue to grow within the organization. Similar to a guidance counselor, companies may consider a separate group that is charted to develop individuals by providing career consultation and other related services that will allow them to acquire the new skills needed to get ahead in the company.
  5. Offer specialized training to employees in each department. This is important for key employees that you are looking to promote, as well as struggling employees who would benefit from additional job-related knowledge. Cross-training is especially helpful if there is an unexpected departure within the organization, so other employees will have an understanding of what the position entails and can easily close the gap.
  6. Encourage key employees to continue their education by offering tuition reimbursement or programs that allow them to increase their industry or area of knowledge. Other areas to consider are attendance amongst industry conferences or memberships in trade associations.
  7. Reward key employees and offer incentives to those who are striving to move up within the organization. Set specific goals for them to achieve and establish appropriate awards.
  8. Implement a comprehensive and forward-thinking recruitment program to attract qualified candidates in areas required to fulfill current and future needs of the organization. Develop a strong recruitment brand to help attract highly-qualified candidates when a position is unable to be filled internally. Be creative and use a variety of methods including online recruitment sites, career fairs, staffing agencies and networking. Don’t forget to consider niche-specific job sites targeted towards your industry or departmental areas. For example, Nexxt is a network of more than 15,000 specialty career sites which offer a variety of ways for companies to increase their corporate brand in the marketplace and more effectively attract key talent.
  9. Communicate and reevaluate your succession plan and retention program each quarter to reassess the company’s hiring needs and determine your success in “developing employees”. Remember, it costs more to recruit new hires than to develop internal candidate, so don’t lose out on the investment that you have already made!
Common Mistakes of Succession Planning There are several key mistakes that can occur when creating a succession plan. To ensure that your company will get the most out of a succession plan, it is best to avoid these common mistakes:
  • Reacting to a crisis - Don’t wait until a crisis strikes your business to begin searching for key talent to promote within the organization. It is better to plan ahead and develop a succession plan while your business is stable and profitable, rather than being forced into making a hasty decision you could regret in the midst of a crisis.
  • Rushing to the wrong decision - Keep an open mind about your succession options. Be sure to take your time to identify appropriate employees for promotion, and make sure they will be able to handle the pressure and responsibility of the job. Consult other employees and business colleagues for ideas and suggestions.
  • Failing to take independent advice - It is important to consider seeking advice from an independent expert source. Sometimes a third party can offer non-biased judgment and a different perspective that you may have not seen, which can help you prevent bad decisions, as well as offer advice on selecting the right person for a job.
  • Writing a succession plan only once - Some companies make the mistake of believing that once a succession plan is written, it is set in stone. Succession planning should be updated and revised periodically as your company evolves and grows to ensure that it continues to address the future needs of the company.
Looking Ahead By defining corporate strategies, identifying key resources to meet objectives and outlining a clear succession plan which includes employee retention, training and recruitment practices, companies can minimize risks and be well positioned for future success. To read more on other topics related to succession planning, please visit the articles and blogs section.

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  • Bubby
    Kudos to you! I hadn't thought of that!
  • Kamron
    Great post!
  • Indy
    Glad I've finally found something I agree with!

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