Succession planning is often viewed as a set of activities that are required when a business will transition – the owner sells, the next generation of family take over ownership and management or other ‘exit’ options. In reality, succession planning is about making sure that your business is prepared for the future. That includes a wide range of things, such as:
- Successfully weathering changes in technology, staffing and the economy
- Replacing key personnel, if and when they leave
- Responding to major changes in your industry (think Uber and taxis)
As a business owner and leader, undertaking succession planning is a sound investment of time and requires ongoing attention. It’s not something you can just think about once. If you haven’t started planning for the future yet, now is the time.
With that in mind, here are 5 tips to help you start a succession plan (or improve what you’ve begun):
- Examine your team
You’ve probably thought about what you’d do if you lost your most trusted team member. But what about the receptionist who’s been with the business for 20 years and knows all your top clients by name? Your people make your business what it is, and some of your most important staff members are not on your management team. Skills are important, but personality traits and experience within your company are often just as critical. When planning, think carefully about allof your employees and their roles. Identify their value to the business and plan how to capture and retain that value if circumstances change.
- Ask, “ What’s missing? ”
Once you’ve had a chance to look at your current workforce, you’ll be in a better place to identify where you’re missing important skills, traits or even positions on your team. As you build succession plans for each role, examine (or create) mentoring and training programs so that new or existing employees develop the skills they need to grow and lead, as well as create company career plans to help employees set, monitor and reach both their own goals and those of your business. Your business might need new capabilities in the near future to maintain its current success – remember the management adage: “What got you here would always get you there”.
- Look for (several) hidden leaders
Extroverts often get attention and get promoted, but they’re not always the best choice for the leadership roles. By identifying all the skills and personality traits necessary for a particular role, you’ll have a better idea of what you need in a successor for every position. Start by looking at what skills and qualities are ideal for key roles in your business, rather than trying to shape the role to the person. It’s a good idea to look at 2-3 possible replacements for each spot and see how people could be mentored to advance within your company. Not only does this help with cross-training and ‘future-proofing’ your organisation, but it can reduce job churn as employees see a clear path for themselves within your business.
This sounds simple, but many organisations don’t do this enough. Thoughtful, ongoing and timely communication with key team members during both your planning process and through any major transitions will go a long way in ensuring the future success of your business. Talk with them about current and potential challenges and discuss delegation of duties, especially when dealing with unexpected transitions or major changes in important roles.
- Seek help from the outside
It’s highly recommended that you seek out a third-party, impartial expert for advice during key stages of succession planning. Bringing in a professional from outside your company will help create transparency, encourage communication, invite new ways of thinking and help explore any financial issues and options. Someone who has worked in a number of different industries will be able to shed light on potential opportunities and provide critical insight.