It’s inevitable that companies lose talent at one point or another, leaving gaps that are difficult to fill. Of course, bridging that void takes time and it can be very costly. So, how do you ensure that your key leaders are nurtured and ready to “step up” when required? Developing a succession plan relies on two core areas, both of which are as crucial as each other.
Know Who Your Key Players Are
As executive recruitment and search specialists, many of the leaders we meet with discuss the importance of creating a solid base in their succession planning strategies. Organisations need to know the positions critical to growth, as well as any skill and competency gaps that would need to be filled, should the current leader move on or into another role. By assessing any vulnerabilities early on, organisations can then take steps to identify and train potential successors. We can’t emphasise enough; how critical it is for organisations to be prepared.
Whilst the obvious succession candidate tends to be the next most experienced and talented from within the team, they’re not the only lifeline. It’s worth also considering other high potential employees who display the skills (especially soft skills) and competencies to succeed in this role who may not have the technical knowledge and/or same years of divisional experience. Organisations will immediately provide access to more options by opening the net a little wider and without focusing on replacing necessarily with a ‘like for like.’
Below are some consideration points to consider when building your succession plans:
What key areas of the organisation most require business continuity?
Which positions are considered critical?
What efforts are being made to develop future potential?
What are the gaps in skills/competencies of potential successors?
What development/training needs to be put in place?
Get Their Skills Up To Scratch
In an ideal world, a readymade replacement would be great, but let’s face it, that’s not always the case. While it’s rare to find someone who is the ‘perfect’ replacement from the outset, look for ways to fast-track their development. A few examples we’d suggest are:
Learning the ropes from successful managers is a go-to for many people. As well as supporting mentees through various challenges, your strongest leaders (or external mentors) can impart wisdom, personal successes and failures, whilst helping to navigate the unspoken rules and culture of the role.
Does your organisation have the tools and training programmes to support leaders, or should you look externally? A combination of both internal and external training is something to consider.
Short assignments in other business units is a great way for successors to dip their toes into a senior role. Whilst not always possible, lateral moves can also highlight any chinks in the armour that need to be addressed with further training.
Any succession planning strategy needs to be put to the test and any upcoming annual leave you have is a great time for potential leaders to step up and take on additional responsibilities. You’ll soon learn how prepared they are to take on expanded scope!
Have honest and open conversations, outlining not just successes but any performance gaps and areas of improvement. Whatever you do, regular feedback is needed to tackle any hurdles as they arise i.e. annual performance reviews aren’t enough!
Succession planning needs to be an ongoing commitment for it to be successful. This means having managers in all parts of the organisation identifying gaps in talent and focusing on the development of high performers. If there’s no one suitable and ready to step up, a specialist executive search consultancy can keep you up-to-date with who’s available in your market. If you’d like to chat through any of the topics discussed here, I'd love to talk to you.