Succession Planning Isn’t Just for CEOs
A Succession Plan Matters For The Entire Organization
If you asked your CEO what would happen if he or she left the company, you would likely be told of the succession plan in place. As critical as the CEO is to the company, there are plenty below whose absence would have ripple effects throughout the organization. Is there a plan as to who would immediately fill the hole left behind?
From the outside, a succession plan is nothing more than a process to ensure the business will operate with little interruption should an employee go M.I.A. That employee could be the CEO or any executive, but they could also be a manager, a team leader, a team member, or even the mail runner. No company wants to be caught with their pants down and even if you’re mail runner skips town, mail still has to be delivered. Who’s going to do it?
When you dig a little deeper into a succession plan, however, you find there are lots of benefits for including everyone across the organization. The succession plan is a fantastic way to send the message that there is always room to grow, to “move up,” to try new opportunities. Companies who have succession plans in place communicate that they are desiring to hire and promote from within.
Wonder if a succession plan really matters? Here’s what one industry study found:
- 62% of employees say they would be “significantly more engaged” at work if their company had a succession plan
- 94% of employers say a succession plan positively impacts their employees’ engagement levels
- Over 90% of millennials say working at a company with a clear succession plan would “improve” their level of engagement
When employees feel like there are opportunities to develop their skills, work with new people, and expand their job functions, they are more motivated to contribute beyond their designated role. Instead of companies hiring for a singular position, they are hiring a person who has potential to fill multiple roles. This is a good thing for both the employer and the employee. The flexibility and scalability of the workforce mean companies can respond faster to shifts and changes.
Here’s a sobering statistic: It takes at least one to two years before an employee is “fully productive,” meaning they may not be as productive as the previous employee for two years. Two years is a long time to get things back to normal.
Succession planning also helps recruit the best employees because they are going to be looking for ways to grow. This is actually a great question for job seekers to ask of their potential employers. Before accepting a new position, who wouldn’t want to know if there will be ample opportunities to develop skills and abilities, to be intentionally prepared for advancement and promotion?
For the employer, a succession plan helps everyone, particularly HR and managers, breathe a sigh of relief. It’s unnerving to know the success of that product launch, that project, that initiative is riding on the back of one person. We all want to know that if that person jumps ship, the whole house of cards isn’t going to come crashing down.
Employers can use their succession plan as a safeguard, life insurance, if you will. It may not be perfect, but it’s going to ensure there are always employees in the wings ready and willing to jump into the new role should the need arise.
How to Get Started with A Succession Plan
Succession planning isn’t as easy as just naming one or more people as a backup. It’s not like an emergency contact list. The selected successor must fulfill certain job-specific requirements. You wouldn’t want to put that poor mail runner into a key account sales position, at least not until he or she was thoroughly trained.
The best way to prepare employees for succession is through cross-training. The most logical succession route would be to prepare fellow team members or a peer in a similar role, even if it is in a differing department. Having employees shadow each other, contribute on projects outside of their current responsibilities, or mentor others periodically are reasonable options.
Business leaders may also work with HR to design a succession plan with key players named – those who they know, based on their skillset, experience and workload, would be able to step up in a pinch. Key players can be named by department, project, division or any segment so managers in those areas understand who their go-to people will be if needed.
Of course, when one person fills a vacated position, they create another hole. Their position, in turn, must be filled. This sets the organization up for continual advancement opportunities until eventually, the decision must be made as to whether the resulting empty role can be absorbed by another employee or if a new hire will need to be brought on board. This is how companies grow and evolve to meet the needs of the business and the market.
Use The Company Org Chart
For 81 percent of companies, some type of succession planning tool is used to manage these personnel shifts. The company org chart can be a powerful tool – if it is current and reliable. I say this because if you’re using a static org chart, like one made with PowerPoint or Visio, you may be working off of old information. As rapidly as organizations shift and change, you can’t make valid business or personnel decisions based on old data.
If you use org chart software that is updated in real-time, you have a valuable resource that can assist you in preparing your succession plan. Any manager can use the org chart to determine which team members are most ripe for development, where a shift could happen if needed, how resource gaps could be filled, etc.
Today’s modern org chart software can tell managers not only where each employee resides on a chart, but their skills, experience, current projects, interests and job goals. This, my friends, is power. This is how successors are found. It’s not throwing a dart or pinning the tail on a donkey. It’s precision planning.
What Really Matters
Every role in the company matters. This means every successor matters. If companies want to minimize disruption and capitalize on employee potential, they must be intentional about their succession plan, one employee at a time.
Will every role require a designated successor? Maybe not. But every role should be able to be filled quickly with the right person. Maybe that person can’t be named or doesn’t need to be named right now. But if the role were suddenly vacated, would time matter? Would skills matter? If you answered yes to either of those questions, you need to have a plan in place for that hole left behind, even if it means hiring from outside of the organization.