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  • Writer's pictureKathy Andrews

How’s Your Bench? The Do’s and Don’ts of Designing a Viable Succession Plan

“Succession planning helps build the bench strength of an organization to ensure the long-term health, growth and stability.” Teala Wilson

Human resource managers have a unique challenge these days. As a senior management coach, I see the impact a shift in demographics has on companies across all sectors.

Their roster of senior leaders - Baby Boomers - are easing into retirement, taking with them decades of knowledge and experience.

Is your company prepared to meet the challenge when these veteran players pass the torch?

There are some important factors to consider when designing and implementing your succession plan...and you’ll be pleased to hear the professional development strategy you might already have in the works can be the backbone of that plan.

Here are the factors you should consider when creating your corporate succession plan...

Do start early.

The Succession planning process shouldn’t be a last-minute exercise - and fortunately, it’s where your onboarding and leadership development training comes into play.

If you start thinking of your succession plan as part of a long-term process - not just a six-week ‘information dump’ and exit interview before your senior development officer retires - you’ll find ways to foster a culture of collaboration.

That means your onboarding will include engagement from your senior leadership...more on this in a minute.

Don’t start with the people, start with the position.

It’s vital to understand the actual roles your employees play in your day-to-day - and long-term - success. Take the personalities you already have in leadership out of the equation, then ask some questions.

  • Ask yourself:

Do the current job descriptions match the vision you have for your company going forward? Has the industry changed? Has technology changed?

The market can fluctuate depending on your product or service. Something that generated growth five years ago might be stagnant now. The skillsets required to foster continued growth might be changing.

Be critical. And be curious.

  • Ask your senior leaders:

Do their original job descriptions still apply to the role they’re actually fulfilling? This practice is perfect for professional development in general.

I talk about the benefits of consulting senior leadership in your training programs. You’ll reap the rewards in the present and well into the future.

Do pay attention to personalities.

I know, I just said you shouldn’t pay attention to personalities.

But for this part of the process, you should. Watch for synergies in your company - and discord. Lateral ‘promotions’ and cross-department assignments are an excellent way to test the waters.

You’ll have insight into where the collaboration is fostered and where it’s stifled. Your professional development planning - and therefore your succession planning - can be tailored to accentuate or compensate for those factors.

Don’t cast it in stone.

Be prepared to reevaluate your succession plan critically from year to year.

This will require creating a system of review, one that has objective measurables and targets. Again, get your senior leadership involved in these reviews.

Find a workable system for tracking your team’s success so you know how to build a strong bench for the next season.

A strategic human resource management plan should include succession planning - and should be designed to fit your specific needs.

Start early. Learn what your team is doing now, evaluate needs for the future, and be willing to adapt as your business climate changes.

If you’d like to learn more about our leadership and talent management strategies you can contact us.

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