Succession planning: hints and tips

Developing a succession plan should be an integral and necessary part of your business plan. Movement may happen for a number of reasons; your lead sales person or general manager may leave for other opportunities, be coming up to retirement or, as they develop and your company grows, they may grow into a new role. Whatever the reason, the impact of losing key team members can quickly result in a challenging environment for all involved.

Mitigating risk around people isn’t often put in the same bucket as losing key customers or the IT systems going down, yet taking the time to think through how the business will manage is critical to business continuity.

The first step in your succession plan should be to identify and map out those roles that are key for your business success. Then you need to address the individuals in those roles. This can be as simple as starting a conversation with them to uncover their aspirations and understand what goals they have for themselves, both in their current role and beyond. You may also be able to establish whether they plan to stick around or are likely to move on in the short-term; allowing you to gain a sense of your near-future talent souring requirements.

Secondly, work to identify the key criteria, skills and experiences you need in each of these critical roles. Importantly, this will help you to identify where else these skills exist in your organisation and allow you to map these employees to your critical roles. Should the internal talent not be available, you’ll also find yourself on the front-foot for sourcing new talent.

The benefits to your business of establishing internal talent opportunities are multitudinous; by knowing where talent lies in your business, you can put in place growth plans for relevant team members so that they’re ready to step up should a role become available. The employees in question will be happier in their jobs due to the investment they see being made in them and this in-turn leads to higher engagement. Add to the fact that you’ll be able to promote from within in a timely fashion, business continuity will be maintained and the time (and money) spent on sourcing new employees should decrease.

Resignations, retirement or internal promotions never come at a ‘convenient’ time, so take the time now to plan out scenarios for succession.

5 tips for succession planning

  • Identify clearly which roles in your organisation are ‘key’ or ‘critical’ for business success.

  • Identify which skills and experience you need for these key roles before looking into your organisation to see where else these may be.

  • Get buy-in from your business leadership team so everyone is on the same page in terms of who the potential future leaders are and how the organisation is working to progress these people.

  • Share the plan – employees who feel their development is being invested in will feel a stronger loyalty to the organisation and you’re less likely to lose them.

  • Have honest and open conversations about career paths to ensure you’re building trust and maintain this commitment to your team members even when someone is considering moving on.

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Rebecca Supierz


HR Manager – AU and NZ

Rebecca Supierz leads the HR function at SEEK for three of our business units: employment and learning; product, development and strategy; and finance. Before joining SEEK in 2013, Rebecca spent nine years working at Telstra, leading teams across...

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