Home > Leadership, The Monday Musings Column > the importance of Succession Planning

the importance of Succession Planning

Independent types like me are often called in to cover for someone who has just left an organisation. They want someone to come in as interim cover while they recruit a permanent replacement and one of the phrases that comes in almost all of those conversations is that they need someone to “hit the ground running” because they do not have anyone on their team who can do that.

People are people and they can move on from their job for a variety of reasons, yet not that many organisations have an effective succession plan in place and when someone leaves they have to scramble to find an acceptable replacement or, make do with the most expedient solution like hiring an interim. None of these solutions is ideal though so having a succession plan in place, or at least a process, makes a lot of sense.

Recruitment is an expensive business and carries risks for no matter how well you handle the process you can still find that your choice turns out to be not as good as expected, doesn’t like the job after all or takes longer than expected to settle in. In any case recruitment takes time and costs money all of which is part of the overhead of running the organisation and overheads are something that you should be ruthlessly hunting down and eliminating as many as you can. Having a succession plan in place and a process that you will follow allows you to be ready when the inevitable happens and someone moves on. I say inevitable because, as much as you will do your best to retain employees you will not be able to keep them all.

Succession planning should start with identifying the critical roles within the organisation and conducting a risk assessment because the loss of key people is a risk. With that in place you can start to look at how you can mitigate the risks. One of the key problems with the loss of someone in an important role is that it is almost always sudden; people die or get fired and even if they resign, in a position of importance it is normal practice to have them work out their notice on gardening leave. Only in the case of a promotion is the person likely to be around for a while, but even then it is not usually long enough to replace them effectively if you have no plan in place. Here we are looking at permanent loss of the key person, but there are other situations where a temporary loss occurs; vacation, maternity or paternity leave, illness, or being loaned to another part of the organisation are all examples that crop up regularly.

The best succession planning is to have a number of people being developed to cover each key post. People within the team are shadowing each other, swapping jobs, or elements of jobs, so that there is strength in depth that can be deployed if necessary. Building the talent pool in your own organisation should be an aim in any case and it is a powerful motivational tool in its own right, but it also allows you to quickly cover any sudden loss and avoids a scramble to recruit. You may still need to bring someone new in, but you can do that at a more relaxed pace that best suits you and the cost can be better spent.



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