What is Succession Planning and why is it so important?

September 7, 2018

We’ve all been there – a long term employee leaves and all of a sudden you panic as you remember they have so much information stored just in their head! Creating a succession plan is therefore essential to ensure you cover all bases and can properly hand over the role to another person when someone leaves.

By Tim Frear

When we talk about succession planning, eyebrows raise, and a puzzled look appears on people’s faces, but it’s not rocket science! We all know that there’s an employee life cycle and we should be realistic – people are going to leave your organisation eventually and take with them certain skills, abilities and knowledge that others might not have. Succession planning done effectively mitigates the level of loss within the organisation when people leave, by giving their level of knowledge and understanding to a planned successor.

It’s important for SMEs to embrace succession planning – larger organisations have been doing this for years, however the shift to SMEs has only just started. Unlike many HR practices, there is no one size fits all model for a good succession plan, especially with smaller organisations. As there is so much crossover in roles, it’s harder to differentiate roles and responsibilities in a smaller organisation and fluid job descriptions make it difficult to start looking at a good plan.

Identifying and developing potential future leaders or senior managers should start early on, as the more time and exposure, the stronger and more agile team or person. Putting the right succession plan in place that works for your organisation and people is important to ensure the full buy-in of the leadership team and of employees going through the process. Most larger organisations have a formal process where there is a full list of capabilities and candidates can apply and it’s usually connected to the performance appraisal process.  In smaller organisations it’s more likely to be informal, where leaders identify talent further down the line and engage in mentoring and coaching to ensure the person is getting the skills and abilities to be able to take over at a later stage.

Make sure at whatever level or formality the succession planning takes, you need to ensure fairness and openness. In a world of where discrimination is in the public eye and employees understand their rights, you need to make sure your candidate selection does not consider age, disability, race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation as these can be linked directly to the Equality Act 2010.

Think about alternative scenarios when considering succession planning, as there are alternatives to the traditional upward movements. Sideways, lateral transfers can add strength and skills to people wanting to diversify their experience whilst keeping skills within an organisation. In a digital age, where IT systems are getting better there may be areas of the business that can be taken online or outsourced (hello HR180!). These all need considering when devising and developing a succession plan.

Finally, all best laid plans can change, and so being flexible, open, honest, and transparent with your employees is crucial for motivation and loyalty.

If you would like us to look at a succession plan for your organisation let us know, and we can work with you and your leaders to implement this.

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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