The HR Side of Succession Planning

Earlier, we brought you a blog about the importance of getting started early with succession planning. In case you don’t remember …

Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing people inside your organization to fill key leadership and ownership positions. It’s also commonly known as transition planning, as you’re looking at how you’ll transition the business to the next leader(s).

Now that you realize how important it is to get started early, the next step is figuring out how you are going to undertake this process of implementing a succession plan.

The Human Resources (HR) department is a great (and often overlooked) tool in succession planning. Not only are these professionals in the business of keeping employees satisfied, but they also know how to work with employees (and potential employees) to find out what talents, traits and characteristics they have, which can be crucial in implementing a succession plan. A survey by the Corporate Leadership Council, an HR organization, showed that of the 276 companies surveyed, only 20% of HR executives were satisfied with the succession process. This leaves a large area for HR professionals to jump in and take over the succession planning process.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the preparation process for keeping talent in the pipeline is generally a 12 to 36 month process. What does that mean for you? You need a good plan and strategies in place to ensure your business is always in good hands, and you need these strategies in place ASAP.

From an HR standpoint, there are a number of ideas to focus on in order to find the best candidates to have lined up in your succession plan. This starts with the search: should you look inside or outside of your business? There are advantages and disadvantages to each that can help you decide where to look.

Let’s start with taking a look inside your business…

  • Advantages
    • Already have an established fit with the company and are familiar with how things operate
    • Have already been invested in by the company
    • Can be monitored on performance and can be “groomed” to fit the position
    • Can start planning process sooner with these people, as they are already a part of the company
  • Disadvantages
    • May have experience in your company, but may not be the correct experience
    • May have been hired because of skills, but these skills may not be a good fit for the new position
    • Takes time and money to implement a plan within
    • The plan could fall through if they end up leaving the job

And now outside of your business…

  • Advantages
    • Brings in a fresh perspective
    • Ready to learn new skills and can be adaptable
    • The company can search from a larger pool to find an exact match
  • Disadvantages
    • Don’t know the company as well and may not be an immediate team fit
    • Could potentially lengthen the already time consuming succession planning process
    • This person may be able to do a job, but can they do the job?
    • If the wrong person is brought in, it can lead to a complicated, expensive mess

After weighing the pros and cons of each pool of candidates, you need to know how to implement a successful succession plan (say that three times fast!). There are some components of an excellent succession plan that deserve some thought and attention.

  • Motivation – You want to provide your employees with incentives to encourage motivation. Herzberg’s Theory of Motivation states that meeting personal growth, achievement and recognition of needs promotes motivation. Focus on these factors, and watch your employees become more motivated.
  • Participation – Commitment and support from everyone involved in succession planning will have a positive influence on the program. It also allows for more inclusion, which can help create a positive learning experience.
  • Alignment – Making sure the succession plan matches up with the business objectives. This will help with a smooth transfer of skills for the position needed to be filled.
  • Variety – People learn in different ways. Offering different techniques for training can assist in finding the best possible method for succession planning that will be beneficial to all candidates.
  • KPIs – Having Key Performance Indicators in place will help you measure how far along the candidates are in their succession training, and can also help you decide who is learning and adapting quickest, which may indicate their readiness to be a successor.

Although these components can help to implement a successful succession plan, there are, of course, some obstacles you should be aware of.

  • Resistance to Change – Change is often something that can be hard to handle. In an organization planning to find a successor, tensions could arise if people are not exactly in favor of implementing a succession plan, especially if it involved bringing in someone new. Start small with the changes, involve everyone and work to build a cohesive team and strategy.
  • Lack of Support – If outspoken anti-succession employees get the floor to speak, it can be hard to sell the idea of succession planning. In this case, locate the source of skepticism and address it with relevant facts to gain this support back.
  • Lack of Time – Let’s be honest, you knew we would mention this one again. Without giving yourself enough time to develop a succession plan, the time may come when a successor is needed, and the pool of candidates to take this spot is empty. Always prepare yourself for any possible “what ifs” and make sure you have ample time to address them.

If you’re ready to get started, but need some help getting going, we are here.

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