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Succession Planning

What is Succession Planning?

Succession Planning is how organizations continuously develop employees to promote eligible ones to key positions, ensuring business stability and growth.

Initially seen as a replacement approach for executive positions, succession planning has evolved into a broader process that helps in:

  • Replenishing an organization’s HR at a broad or specific level.
  • Identifying, assessing, and developing employees’ knowledge, skills, and abilities.
  • Ensuring a continuous supply of talent and developing them as a successor for key positions.

Why is succession planning important?

Succession planning helps organizations sustain their growth and productivity, especially during leadership transitions or periods of change.

Failing to plan leads to:

  • Loss of top talent and critical skills and competency that are not easy to recover.
  • Promoting an unworthy successor who lacks personal drive, commitment, knowledge, or skills to perform the job.
  • Considerable time and cost spent finding the successor externally and investing in their training activities.
  • Potential disruptions in the pre-established processes, workflows, and protocols.

What are some models of succession planning?

There are three successful models of succession planning:

  1. Mass Recruitment
  2. Specialized Recruitment
  3. Outside Recruitment

They are discussed below:

1. Mass Recruitment

In this model, organizations focus on training and developing their in-house talent to succeed in the positions in case of death, resignation, or retirement. All the junior supervisors, senior supervisors, mid-level executives, and top-level executives participate in the leadership development programs, and regardless of their positions, they undergo similar training. However, this model is heavily dependent on additional funds and resources.

2. Specialized Recruitment

Here, a few of the competent employees undergo leadership training to ensure the availability of competent leaders when organizations face unfavorable situations. The training programs are designed to accommodate specific positions’ needs and are a relatively cost-effective model than the previous one. However, it faces a roadblock when the potential successor quits the organization, creating a vacuum in the role.

3. Outside Recruitment

Organizations hire employees from outside the organization to succeed in critical roles. This is effective as there may be many competent leaders outside the organization. However, they need to be retrained to familiarize themselves with the organization’s operating procedures and standard protocols, making it a costly and time-consuming model.

Here are the key differences between the three models of succession planning:

Aspect Mass Recruitment Specialized Recruitment Outside Recruitment 
Talent Development Limited focus on skill development. Tailored training for specific skills. Dependent on existing skills. 
Successor Readiness May not align with future needs. Create successors for key roles. Immediate fit for key positions. 
Internal Pipeline Limited emphasis. Cultivate internal talent pool. Expand talent pool to outside. 
Role complexity Entry-level job roles. Focused on roles with specialized skills. Complex or specialized roles. 
Organizational Fit Overlook cultural or strategic alignment. Aims for cultural and role fit. Aims for fit with organizational goals. 
Diversity and Inclusion Not a priority in hiring. Can contribute to a diverse workforce. Can bring fresh and diverse perspectives. 

What are the benefits of Succession Planning?

48% of business leaders firmly believe that robust succession planning has significant cultural, operational, and financial benefits. They are listed below:

Cultural Benefits of Succession Planning

Succession planning helps preserve the stability and structure of organizations, assuring the various stakeholders of the business viability. Employee motivation is another benefit, as succession planning involves identifying and developing talent and intrinsically motivating employees with rewards and recognition. Additionally, it also cultivates a culture of continual learning and growth.

Did you know that succession planning helps organizations overcome similarity bias and unconscious partiality, making the leadership pipelines more equitable and inclusive?

Operational Benefits of Succession Planning

They are the most profound benefits of succession planning, including increased morale, greater job satisfaction, and reduced attrition. It also helps in creating a talent pool surrounding critical positions, allowing organizations to reap the benefits of having a solid set of leaders, and competent ones succeeding in the future.

Succession planning helps an organization in the following ways:

  • Identify key positions and create clear and comprehensive job descriptions.
  • Ensure successors are always ready to step in vacant positions, saving time and effort.
  • Developing strong leaders that help business operate smoothly every day.
  • Show organizations investment in employee development initiatives, improving attraction and retention of top talent.
  • Make merit-based decisions that help organizations maximize their profitability and productivity.

Financial Benefits of Succession Planning

Organizations often think succession planning is heavily cost-dependent. However, a recent study shows that unplanned succession costs an average of $1.8 billion in shareholder value. Thus, making it a critical investment for organizations will impact their sustainability and the long run of business operations.

Direct Costs of Not Having a Succession Plan Indirect Costs of Not Having Succession Plan 
Severance Package Time and cost lost in onboarding underprepared candidates. 
Unplanned board meetings with unexpected travel costs. Damage to third-party relationships based on ongoing leadership relations. 
Premiums paid for unplanned and external hires. Lower morale and disrupted team dynamics. 
Lawyers, consultants, public relations, etc. Higher turnover as employees leaves unstable organizations. 

What are the challenges in succession planning?

Organizations mostly face these hurdles while they begin a succession plan:

  • An unstable workforce is one of the biggest barriers to succession planning, as developing employees for the future is difficult when they don’t stay for long.
  • Sometimes, succession planning increases the workload on a single department or a team. Hence, it’s essential to be spearheaded by cross functional team leaders.
  • Mid-level managers often lead a long-term succession plan with limited knowledge and resources. Upper-level management support is crucial in sustaining it in the long run.
  • Change management is one of the crucial aspects, and organizations often need to improve in this step, adapting to changes in nature, role, and responsibilities of the job.
  • Organizations adopt a one-size-fits-all approach for training employees, making it difficult for employees to participate actively, so it is essential to follow a personalized plan.

How to implement succession planning?

Here is a general framework to implement successful succession planning in your organization:

  • Begin by identifying the key positions and roles where long-term or short-term succession planning is needed.
  • Define the critical competencies and skills essential for these positions, and job descriptions offer a good starting point.
  • Identify the potential candidates and assess them against the pre-determined criteria. Assessments can be done based on written exams, interviews, performance reviews, and reference checks.
  • After identifying the potential candidates, formulate a personalized learning and development plan to ensure they meet the expectations.
  • After implementing a succession plan, it must be regularly measured and reassessed to ensure its success.

If you want to gain more practical insights on Succession Planning, refer to this blog.

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