Succession Planning Documents

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Succession planning can be defined as the process of ensuring that there is an available pool of skilled employees to meet the strategic objectives of the organization, identifying high-potential or key employees and developing them for expanded or more senior roles in the future.

Companies are losing substantial numbers of upper-level management and employees in key positions due to retirement. In many cases, middle managers are not ready to move into those senior-management positions and other employees are not qualified to fill key positions because they do not have the necessary skills, abilities or experience.

Many organizations identify their employees as a key factor in their success and a competitive advantage, yet most do not have any active planning or process to ensure that their people will continue to be a strong asset in the future as retirement and turnover result in key employees needing to be replaced.

Succession planning is a formal process by which an organization can identify key positions and determine which employees have the potential to move into those positions if the incumbent employee were to leave the company in the future. Typically, a succession plan will specify whether a potential successor is ready now or identify specific skills, abilities or experience that the company feels the employee should gain before they can be considered to move into the role.

Align Succession Plans with Organizational Strategy

Succession planning must be linked to business plans and strategies in order for it to affect the organization's long-term goals and objectives. Succession planning must clearly reinforce corporate goals and objectives.

Identify the Skills and Abilities Needed to Meet Strategic Objectives

Focus on required job-based skills, abilities and experiences. Critical positions must always be filled in order for the company to function at its full potential; therefore, the company must plan for ways to fill these positions when they become available in the future. Internal promotion is often the most effective and cost-effective way of doing this.

Identify Key Positions

In addition to senior management and leadership positions, many middle management, supervisory and technical positions may also be viewed as critical to the success of the organization. Each of these positions should be included in the succession plan. The more comprehensive the plan, the higher the potential value and the clearer the road map to fulfilling key human resources needs in the future will be.

Identify Key Performers

Key performers within the organization can be trained and given the skills needed in order to fill essential positions in the future. Identify these potential successors and create replacement charts to organize and map out future replacements for essential positions. Keep in mind that more than one replacement could be recognized.

Provide Development Opportunities and Experiences

Promotions, job rotations, special assignments, formal training, mentoring and coaching are used to develop employees. This will prepare the employees and the company for future needs. Employees identified as potential successors should be engaged in a discussion about their development and the potential the company feels they have. If there is an alignment in the company's view of the employee's potential and the employee's career interests, a personal-development plan should be created in conjunction with the areas for development identified in the succession plan. The Developing SMART Objectives tool will also be of assistance in creating the development plan.

Monitor and Update the Succession Plan

The succession plan should be a living document, updated regularly as succession candidates attain developmental milestones or fail to meet their expected potential, and as employees depart and are hired into the organization.

A succession-plan template, a personal-development plan and the Developing SMART Objectives tool are available for download in the box at right.