According to research by Deloitte, “86 percent of leaders believe leadership succession planning is an urgent priority but only 14 percent believe they do it well.” Having enough capable leaders is a challenge for organizations, and this is where succession planning comes into play. However, there is an art to succession planning.
What is Succession Planning?
In essence, succession planning is a plan to ensure your organization has good future leaders in store. But how would your current leaders feel about that? Would it make them nervous that they could be replaced at any time? Or perhaps would they disrupt the process to safeguard their own interests? Navigating these choppy waters is what makes succession planning a tricky process.
The first important step is to communicate the goals of succession planning. Transparent communication across the organization will allay any fears and worries in the minds of the current leaders. Furthermore, the current leaders must be encouraged to be proactively involved in choosing their potential successors, as no one else is better suited to understanding the requirements of their role. One of the main mistakes to avoid is having any secrecy around the process.
Essential Components of Succession Planning
1. Skill Development
The overall company culture should focus on skill development, so that you have potential future leaders in place. It isn’t enough to simply invest in a learning platform without consistently communicating the importance of skill development and how continuous learning and upskilling will open the door to leadership opportunities within the organization.
The organization should encourage mentorship from the current leaders and must create a healthy culture that allows ambitious employees to be able to approach mentors without fearing any blowback.
3. Consistent Feedback and Coaching
When selected employees are proactively working towards a particular leadership position, they must receive consistent feedback on their growth and development. A great way to incorporate coaching the employees for the future role is to offer them a chance to do a trial run.
Ideally, if the current manager is on vacation, it provides an opportunity to test potential candidates. But the organization can also set up other ways such as shadowing the current manager on the job or even allowing the potential candidates to take over the role for a day while the current manager can watch and assess the candidates.
4. A Backup Plan
Sometimes the candidate that is most preferred to succeed into a position might not end up taking it. Once again, transparent communication is key in maneuvering such situations. The next candidate-in-line should not feel like a second choice, but instead be provided with clear reasoning for why he or she was next in line, and what skills they can improve upon to step up to the challenge. Along the same lines, other potential candidates who lost out on the position should also be given clear constructive feedback to ensure that they are not discouraged from continuing to upskill themselves.
Succession planning may seem like a complex process but when it comes down to it, it is about creating a culture that promotes transparent communication so that all employees are invested in their own success as well as the success of the organization.