Succession planning in five simple steps

Interview with employer

With more than half a million SMB’s in New Zealand, the loss of a key employee can have a significant impact on your business and its ability to function.

How would your business cope if several key employees resigned at the same time? Are there people you could shoulder tap to move into the roles, and would they be prepared? Or could you end up losing intellectual property and business as a result?

A succession plan can help you prepare for the resignation of key employees by identifying, developing, and retaining your existing talent pool. It is a roadmap for staff progression to prepare employees to step into key roles as they are vacated, ultimately future proofing your business.

We have broken it down into five key steps to get you started.

Step one: Document the who

Spend some time considering what people you just could not do without. For example, if you are a data analytics business then losing your chief data analyst could seriously affect your ability to service clients. Assuming the recruitment of a new analyst could take up to six months, what would you do in the meantime? Is there anyone who could step into the role? Make sure you include all key positions in your plan and check with each employee that their job description still accurately reflects the work they’re doing.

Step two: Identify what?

For every position that you consider critical, identify the skills, knowledge and experience required for that role. It is likely to be a mix of external qualifications and training along with knowledge that’s specific to your business. For example, client relationship skills and operating systems are mostly learned on the job, while hard skills are usually part of a degree or other external qualification. Take a wide berth here to ensure you capture everything and refine it later.

Step three: Talent spotting

Consider which employees would be a good fit for the key roles you have identified.  Talking regularly about succession planning as part of your business strategy often prompts employees to come forward, but it’s not always obvious who would be best placed to step up. Take the time to talk with each employee and ensure everyone has an opportunity to share their aspirations.

For those employees who want to be considered as a successor, work with them every step of the way and make sure your succession planning processes are transparent.

Step four: Develop your talent

Now you have done the groundwork you can start working on a plan for developing your talent. How best can you ensure that employees get the necessary mentoring, training, and professional development to be ready to step up?  And how can you ensure that knowledge is transferred within your business?

For each role and each employee, career development will be unique, but start by making the most of the knowledge you already have. For example, introducing a mentoring programme is a great way to make sure that knowledge is transferred internally.

Do ask for input on talent development and make sure each employee is happy with any plans you make. Reaching out to training providers and enlisting help from a human resources professional will also help you make the right decisions.

Step five: Review and revise

Once you’re up and running, review the plan regularly. Document what strategies are working well and look at how they can be more broadly implemented. Make sure that any changes are clear and agreed by each employee.

Finally, don’t stop talent spotting – as new employees come on board, talk to them about their goals for the future and the continuing professional development that you can offer.

If you do find yourself caught short, we can help. Whether it is a temp you’re after or help with the recruitment of a permanent role, reach out to one of our consultants. 


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