Be ready to respond to change with a succession plan

All businesses need to be ready to respond to employee changes.  This includes an employee’s change in hours or taking extended leave, as well as departures, both planned (such as retirements) and unexpected (such as career changes).  This requires a succession plan to be in place.

Succession planning is about identifying which key positions are critical and really impact the success of your business. It also takes into consideration which employees in your business demonstrate the capabilities to step up or across while someone is on leave, change in hours or should resign from your organisation.

Have you identified which positions are critical to the success of your business? Have you considered which employees will be able to step into each position?

Most businesses overlook this step of succession planning or have it down the list of priorities. Critical roles can be hard to fill and all businesses need to be ready to act, even with an interim arrangement.

A good succession plan enables smooth transition in the event that you need to respond to employee changes, with less likelihood of disruption to operations. By planning well in advance you can maximise the value of your business and enable it to meet future needs.

Succession planning maps out and documents:

  • Identify key positions in your business
  • Assessment of the potential for vacancies in the identified key positions
  • Assessment of the readiness of current employees to fill key positions if they become vacant
  • Gaps in workforce
  • Strategies to address these needs based on the gaps

Identify key positions in your business

The first step in creating a succession plan for your business is to identify the key positions within your business.  These are positions that are critical to the day to day running of your business as well as your leadership and management positions.  To identify these positions consider which functions are critical in the delivery of products and services and achieving the business’ goals. 

Assessment of the potential for vacancies and disruption

The next step in your plan is to take a look at the current workforce; and consider the demographic profile or known information from individual employees in key positions to make an assessment of potential vacancies in key positions and leadership. During the process you might also like to consider employees who are potential flight risks.

Assessment of the readiness of current employees

Once you have identified the key positions within the business and potential vacancies, the next step is to take a look at the current workforce; and consider the performance, potential or known career aspirations of individual employees to make an assessment of their readiness to fill a vacancy.

Gaps in workforce

As each employee has a different level of capability and skill, it is important to assess your individual employees abilities against the position descriptions to identify gaps. Take into consideration the future capabilities and position requirements to achieve the business’ goals..

Develop strategies to address these needs based on the gaps

During the gap analysis you will have identified a number of individual and company wide learning and development needs. You may have also identified that there are some roles where you do not have an employee suitable for a vacancy. There are a number of ways that these gaps can be addressed including;

  • Recruitment
  • Higher duties to cover periods of leave
  • Secondment opportunities (internally or externally) 
  • Formal and informal learning and development opportunities

Now that you have identified your business critical roles, identified potential employees and assessed individuals’ readiness to step into the roles you need to put in place a plan. 

To ensure you will make the most out of your plan by considering the following tips:

Create a formal process

By documenting a formal process it promotes consistency and can be communicated more easily to everyone involved. It will support visibility and effectiveness.

Communicate properly

Communicating plans ahead of time can positively impact your employees’ engagement and motivation levels. Employees (and potential employees) will see you value your employees by investing in internal talent. Trust and loyalty will also be enhanced amongst your employees. It may also help morale remain high as they know that there is a plan in place.

Encourage a culture of learning

If employees gain a lot of skills, there is a good chance they will be able to advance to critical positions and be more resilient in times of change. You can foster a culture of continuous learning and development through mentoring, shadowing and job rotation to name a few options.

Build the appropriate training plan

Succession plans need to be supported by individual employee and company wide learning and development plans. People who can fill critical positions now may have outdated skills by the time succession rolls around. Likewise, people who may not be ready to fill certain positions yet might be the best choices after the right training and coaching.

Look for external opportunities

Large businesses have a wide range of internal choices to fill positions. Smaller companies may sometimes need to turn to the outside world to build their positions’ talent pipelines. You can create an external pool of talent by always looking for great candidates. For example, you can interact with key people on social networks to build rapport and then reach out when succession issues arise.

Create an emergency succession plan

Although you can anticipate and plan for retirement and promotions, people may leave their positions or go on extended leave unpredictably. In these cases, replacement plans can help. Replacement plans can be more informal. It is still important to identify a couple of people that can step in and save the day to act in roles until a suitable alternative is found or take on a few key tasks.

In conclusion, all businesses need to be ready to respond to employee changes, why not start to put a succession plan in place at your workplace today. 

Contact Small Business Society today for assistance with succession planning in your business.

The information provided in this document is for your guidance only and is general in nature. It does not constitute as legal advice. It is the responsibility of the individual to seek legal advice where required.


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About Kate Tongue

Kate Tongue is the founding Director of Small Business Society.

She is a qualified and experienced Human Resources professional with more than 10 years of experience across the private and public sectors.

Her particular interest and experience is in managing the employee life cycle, delivering process improvements, and Human Resource strategy.


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