Whether it’s a resignation that comes out of the blue or one that you’ve been aware of for some time, losing talent can leave gaps in organisations at any level. Replacing talent can often be time-consuming and costly, not to mention the affect it can have on productivity and morale. This is where succession planning comes in. By identifying employees with potential and bringing their professional development into focus, organisations can take a big step in minimising the impact of any loss. But where do you start when developing a succession plan?

Identifying Employees with Potential

Preparation is key. Sometimes, the answer is standing right in front of you i.e. the “obvious” choice. Usually, this is the second in charge, someone who has worked closely (or the closest) to the vacant position or their predecessor. However, don’t discount others in the team or wider business who might be flying under the radar. While their fit for the role may not be as overtly obvious, they may have the skill set, personality and drive to succeed. Look out for the people who readily put up their hand, go the extra mile and self-educate to better themselves professionally. It is also important to note that candidates who are already embedded in the organisation (inside or outside the team) are more likely to be a good cultural fit as well.

Upskilling Your Team Members

Finding the “perfect” replacement is rarely achieved, especially when it comes to replacing top performers, or staff with niche skill sets. This is where an effective professional development programme can bridge the gap and prepare the replacement for success in the role. Some activities I’d recommend are:

  • Mentoring – internal and/or external mentors are a great way to build someone up and get them prepared. Ideally, encourage employees to find a mentor outside their team, as this will allow them to speak freely about the challenges and team interactions they face on a day-to-day basis.
  • Training and Development – a focused Training and Development programme will help employees grow and expand their knowledge, preparing them for new responsibilities which may have previously been outside their skillset. Look to offer a combination of both internal and external training.
  • Trial runs – trial runs a can be a great way to allow the successor to step up and take on extra responsibilities without the risk. Allowing them to take the reins while another employee is on annual leave is the perfect time and a great indicator of whether they are ready to step up or not. This will also highlight any potential development that may be needed.

Always Think About Return on Investment

While upskilling does create some financial outlay, it’s important to consider the other side of the coin and the greater financial risk that comes with not having a succession plan in place. After all, it is common for there to be a loss of productivity and morale when a senior or valued team member leaves, not to mention the potential of additional staff turnover, while the gap is being assessed and filled. What’s clear is that if you don’t keep stability within your team, there’s a great chance of losing more people as negative thoughts around what’s going to happen take hold.

The return on investment you get from upskilling and preparing staff as part of a succession plan goes a long way towards minimising any potential financial loss from an employee resigning.

Closing Thoughts

As much as succession planning is about moving chess pieces around the board (i.e. a strategic decision), it’s also an emotional one given other people in the team will also be affected. To stay 100% on top of your game, make sure you’re planning for any gaps in your team that could present themselves, not just at a leadership level, but throughout your organisation.

If you would like to discuss your own succession planning strategy, or for any support in filling the gaps in your organisation, get in touch with the team at Southside Staffing.