It’s virtually impossible to predict when and why a key employee will choose to leave an organization. What happens in your company when someone suddenly dies, resigns, or is promoted? Is there a mad scramble to replace the departed individual, or is the transition smooth and orderly?
Any company, regardless of its size, can benefit in a variety of ways from succession planning. Here’s how:
- Expected and unexpected vacancies can be filled quickly and smoothly with talented personnel who are trained and ready to handle the job.
- When such a change takes place, there is a minimum of transitional productivity loss and no panic.
- The emphasis on internal development has a positive impact on employee morale, productivity, and retention.
- In a large or geographically spread out organization, high-potential employees aren’t overlooked because of where they happen to be located.
- A succession plan carefully linked to the company’s current needs can respond to a changing business environment by identifying key talent that will benefit the organization today as well as tomorrow.
Succession planning programs vary, but effective ones typically include:
- A current database that maintains information on each employee, including: what they are doing now; their career goals; what positions they are presently qualified for; their work history and education background; and their supervisor’s assessment of their potential. Larger companies should update the database daily; smaller operations can do it weekly—just be sure the information is never more than a week out of date. When an opening occurs, you can generate an immediate list of individuals who have been identified as qualified and eligible.
- Training on how the succession plan works as well as training to develop individuals and groom them for advancement. Cross-training is a critical component of succession planning as well as for smooth day-to-day operations. No matter what size your company is, there should be at least one person capable of stepping into anyone else’s position—including the senior staffers and even company owner—whether for a day or permanently.
- Simple but comprehensive materials, policies, and procedures. Succession planning doesn’t have to be—and in fact, shouldn’t be—complicated or cumbersome.
The energy and effort required to establish and maintain a strong, functional succession planning program is well worth it. The future of your company depends on having the right resources available at the right time—and the cost of a succession plan is far less than the price of rushing to promote unprepared or unqualified people.