How to Build a Succession Plan

October 13, 2021
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Succession planning is the process of identifying and training potential leaders in your organization. This includes not only leaders at the top but all leadership roles in your business. The idea of succession planning is to prepare your organization for all scenarios, and it can help retain employees if they know there are advancement opportunities for them in the future. Being proactive with the plan can prepare you for unexpected leaves within your organization. 

Identify Individuals

Either on your own or with your current leadership team, pinpoint employees with potential. You may start by making a list of each leadership position and the skills needed for those positions. Then, identify which individuals on your current team have those skills or have the ability to develop those skills. Once you have made the list, you need to let them know your plans. Succession planning should not be a secret. The selected individuals will be motivated to not only stay in the company, but they will also understand why they are being asked to attend trainings. 


Train Deficiencies 

The employees you select in your selection plan process will not be ready to start leading tomorrow, but you can get them there through continuing education. This will look different for each organization, but think about the skills they are deficient in and consider how to improve those skills. The training might consist of job shadowing within the company or attending an outside training. In addition to professional development, you may consider setting these individuals up with mentors, either inside or outside your organization. A mentor can serve as a teacher for your potential leaders, and the mentor can provide you with feedback on their progress. 

Trial Run

The idea of completing a trial run of your succession plan may sound intimidating or even awkward, but it is the only way to ensure you have selected the right individuals to fill these leadership roles. A trial run can consist of the individual simply taking on more responsibilities or filling in for a leader on vacation. You will be able to see, without making any commitment, how this individual would perform in that leadership role. The individual will also have the opportunity to receive feedback in a low-stakes environment. 


Look for Gaps

Once you’ve found your potential list and started training them, you will start to see where you have gaps in potential leadership. This will clue you in on who to look for when you hire new individuals. Even if you are hiring for a non-leadership position, you can still look for hires with the potential to grow into the positions you will need to fill down the road. 

The most difficult part of a succession plan is planning for your own leave or retirement. It is hard to believe your organization will go on without you, but if you plan for it you are giving the business an opportunity to succeed. You will follow this same process when thinking about your role, and let the individual know your plan.