What is Succession Planning?

Succession planning is the process of proactively transferring knowledge, skills and competencies across people within an organisation to prevent the risks associated with absence and staff turnover (such as skill shortages, inexperience and/or incompetence). It is also an essential process for any organisation that needs to minimise the impact of unforeseen staff turnover.

A successful and proactive succession planning strategy will mitigate the risk and impact of people leaving your organisation. This ensures that your organisation will continue to perform optimally in the event of planned or unplanned absence, staff turnover, or organisational restructure.

To ensure you identify and mitigate the risk of staff turnover whether planned or unplanned in a controlled way, whilst ensuring you have the right people deployed in the right roles based on capability. This is especially important with key roles and critical skills. An effective succession planning process will identify these roles in a proactive way and develop suitable strategies.

Effective succession planning will proactively identify the risks and provide a framework to review and manage this risk. By periodically reviewing your key roles and critical skills, you will be able to plan and coordinate solutions to reduce the impact of staff churn.

Objectivity based on data and evidence

Objectivity is key and should reduce (or even better, entirely remove) what is typically a subjective process. This will ensure that your identification and selection is based on evidence of capability. It is important to keep personalities, relationships, favourites and length of service out of this process. It should be focused on identifying the right person for the role, or identifying a person/pool of people who could be developed in preparation for key roles and positions.

Your Competency Framework should help inform this process and not only focus on technical skills, but define the knowledge, skills and competencies for every aspect of a role including values, behaviours and cultural alignment.

Knowledge Transfer

Your succession plans should account for knowledge transfer and the development of the those being earmarked as successors (or future leaders). It takes time to up-skill and develop your talent pool, and so a proactive approach is encouraged. This has been further compounded by the removal of the retirement age in the UK, and people living longer lives has introduced more uncertainty into this important aspect of organisational management and contingency planning.

It's not just focusing on seniority

Be careful not to focus only on seniority with your succession planning. Quite often there may be single-point failures who are technical experts, who can be overlooked, but whose knowledge, skills and experience are critical. Understanding and being able to identify this will allow you to develop a plan & approach to mitigate any risk. This might include the adoption of apprenticeship programmes, undergraduate and graduate recruitment, and development programmes.

At Think Eleven can provide expertise and guidance to review and develop a more optimised succession planning process. We have experience across a variety of sectors and sizes of organisations, and believe in developing a fit-for-purpose solution and process. We will act as a critical friend and challenge your thinking and assumptions where we believe it will add value. If you’ve, “…always done it his way”, then we’re likely to challenge that and look for continuous improvement in everything we provide.

The output of our discussion will be translated into improved processes and systems.

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