The Importance of Successful Succession Planning

Editors note: This week’s blog comes to us from the killer desk of Rockstar Employees CEO (and HR Transformation Legend), Laura Hume

Raise your hand if you feel like your company is totally ready with a great succession plan for your leadership team.

If you raised your hand, you are part of only 14% of leaders who feel the same, according to a Gallup poll. Typically, companies have succession planning issues when it comes to HR policies, business policies, and planning for the future.

At its best, succession plans can provide smooth transitions, a strong leadership team, and improved retention of high performers. They also provide the opportunity to embed more diversity in the leadership ranks. At its worst, slapdash or nonexistent succession plans result in surprise exits followed by a mad scramble to fill holes in the org chart. 

Succession Planning: Yes, it Matters

The first step is to acknowledge that succession plans are important by adopting the adage ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.’

A strong succession strategy will reduce risk, minimize the loss of revenue, and keep shareholder value from plummeting. Thoughtful succession plans can motivate employees by providing insights into the skills they could develop to be prepared for interesting new roles. These insights can be gleaned from analytics related to modernized job profiles that articulate the skills and proficiencies required.  

Understanding current employee skills and mapping those skills to new roles can identify gaps in both new skills and proficiency levels.

By identifying where those gaps are, HR, leadership, and people managers can craft development plans that encourage cross-training, shadowing, and stretch assignments. As a bonus, the same training, shadowing, and cross-skilling that works for covering a vacation will also work for building the skills to succeed someone who leaves the company.

A Collaborative Approach to Skilling

 Implementing an enterprise-wide approach to skilling requires effort from all parties. It is incumbent on the person who is leaving to document their activities, deliverables, artifacts, and resources to assist whoever takes their place. Ideally, everyone – though especially those in leadership and other critical roles – should have a transition plan developed so their departure, whether permanent, temporary, or unplanned, will not leave the company in the lurch.

Unfortunately, it’s rare that any of us document our day-to-day jobs apart from some technical documentation. A strong just-in-case transition plan can help leadership know what roles candidates for shadowing, cross-skilling, or upskilling could be. 

Some of these development activities can be positioned as stretch assignments. For example, those in a succession pool could cover vacations or leaves for the short term to better identify skill and personnel gaps prior to a person leaving permanently or being promoted to a new role which could trigger a cascade of roles to fill. 

This is not just an activity for the C-Suite. It is an activity that can be done top to bottom in the organization and tied to companies’ talent marketplace and career planning strategies. 

The Time is Now to Formulate Succession Plans

The value of a well-executed succession plan cannot be overstated. It’s not just a corporate buzzword, but a strategic imperative for long-term success. 

By taking a proactive and collaborative approach to succession planning, organizations can ensure a smooth transition of leadership, safeguard their revenue streams, and foster a culture of continuous learning and growth.

So, raise your hand if your company is ready for the future by starting the conversation today—it’s an investment in your company’s resilience and prosperity. (Yes, nice to see you all now!) 

  • HCM
  • HR Strategy
  • succession planning

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