Learning & Development, Talent

3 Ways to Improve Succession Planning in Your Organization

For many employers, risk management includes succession planning. One goal is to avoid or reduce business interruptions and maintain momentum toward achieving your objectives. Another goal is to avoid the unnecessary loss of knowledge and experience occurring when valuable personnel depart suddenly and unexpectedly.

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Planning for the next generation of leaders puts you a step ahead. Yet too many organizations focus only on the C-Suite leaders and ignore the greater wealth of information and experience lost every year because of exits by the rank and file. Here are three things you can do to improve your approach.

Identify and Engage Strong Rank-and-File Employees

Employees who have “something extra” can be trained and developed to move into new positions. The identification process should occur across the organization.

You should charge every supervisor or manager with the responsibility to build a strong bench. Reinforce the “drafting” process with incentives if necessary. It shouldn’t be difficult to make the case that a little advanced preparation saves time in the long run.

Every manager knows the woes of having to stand in for an employee who is absent or departs unexpectedly. Leaders need to lead, rather than spending their time filling in during absences, both planned and unplanned.

Develop and Cross-Train the Replacements

Challenge key employees by letting them know a plan is in place for them to “move up.” Prioritize opportunities for personnel to shadow or cross-train with someone more senior.

Perhaps you schedule Employee A to spend 2 to 3 days with Employee B in advance of the latter’s vacation, and Employee A fills in during the stint. If you give Employee B the same opportunity with Employee C, who is even more senior, then when the latter is promoted or even departs unexpectedly, Employees A and B can move up seamlessly within the organization.

Build and Document Job Processes, Procedures, Controls

Every person in your organization has responsibilities. Document them. Develop the organization chart for direct and indirect reporting. Ensure every internal and external contact is recorded and available. Nobody should have to spend half a day locating a customer’s or vendor’s phone number.

Managers should work with their reports to develop a detailed list of job functions and responsibilities. Document everything. Include controls, such as authority limits and second level of review or approval. Another time and resource drain results from the lack of proper signatures on a critical purchase order. Documented processes and controls help.

Bottom Line

Engaging people to think about what’s next for them within the organization and then taking steps to prepare them to step in, either temporarily or for the long term, have done more to preserve value and consistency than most organizations realize. It’s important to plan for succession at the top. But it may be more critical to encourage and facilitate upward movement within all levels of your business.

Alan S. Meek is an attorney with Frost Brown Todd LLC in Lexington, Kentucky. You can reach him at ameek@fbtlaw.com.

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