How do you decide who to promote into your vacant leadership positions? Paper, scissors, rock? Eenie, meeny miny, moe? Or, “who’s been here the longest”? Without a succession plan you can find yourself scrambling to find capable staff ready to step up into a role when the incumbent vacates the position. You usually have two choices: pick someone from within the company who shows potential but is unskilled for the position; or recruit externally to try to find someone with relevant experience.
Recruiting from within is generally desirable as it provides career opportunities which result in a boost in morale for existing employees. It has the added advantage that the person understands the business and the people. However, there will be a period of time before the newly appointed person is fully skilled and productive. Recruiting a skilled person from outside the company will also result in a loss of productivity due to the time taken to induct in your company specific processes.This option results in a loss of opportunity for promotion from within and the associated benefits. You also don’t really know what you are getting.
Either way, you are left with a gap. The incumbent leaves and takes their acquired knowledge with them, unable to pass it on to a successor. For some companies, this can be suicide.
Planning for such eventualities is therefore a smart business practice. When a position is vacated, you have someone ready, willing and able to fill it.
Identifying your successors early allows you to set them, and the company, up for success. You have time to identify their skill and knowledge level relevant to the next position (via a skills audit) and work on closing the gaps (via a training and development plan).
When identifying required skills, you need to consider not just the hard skills, but also the soft skills required to step up into the role. Does the person have strong leadership and management skills? How’s their communication and teamwork? What about their planning and organising skills? And then there are the tips, tricks and quirks unique to the position and which are known by the incumbent.
Succession planning allows time to implement a training and development plan that includes a mix of physical skill training; leadership and people management skills; and mentoring from the incumbent, to pass on crucial knowledge. The result is a smooth transition from one leader to the next with minimal interruption to the business.
Succession for success!