In the past, succession planning was usually only considered to be a pressing concern for family-owned businesses. The process included the legal formalities of naming the person to whom control of a company would be transferred in the event that one of the owner-operators became incapacitated or passed away – kind of like the business equivalent of writing a personal will.
Today, however, the concept of succession planning has begun to be embraced by business at every point on the spectrum – from mom ‘n’ pop shops to corporate giants, and seemingly everyone in between. The growing popularity of succession planning has also led to a broadened definition of the process. Rather than focusing solely on top leadership positions, it’s now commonplace for organizations to chart succession plans for every key supervisory role.
Often, when emergencies or unexpected changes force companies to hire replacements on short notice, the quality of those hiring decisions is likely to be diminished. On the other hand, if you already have a succession plan in place and thus are able to make a strong, effective replacement decision quickly, a sudden vacancy isn’t as likely to impede your organization’s ability to function at full capacity.
Experts caution that not all succession plans are equally effective, however. As with every other type of strategic planning process, quality really does count. Relying on a hastily thrown-together succession plan may be even worse than having nothing in place at all. Here are some tips to help your organization get the most from the succession planning process.
From the boardroom to the back of the house, every business in the hospitality industry relies on a key coterie of supervisors, managers, and executives to keep things running smoothly. The first phase of the succession planning process entails making a list of the positions that absolutely must remain staffed in order to ensure that the company’s daily operations can continue normally.
After your team has identified the mission-critical positions within the organization, it’s time to assess the security and stability of the employees who currently fill those roles. Who is heading for retirement in the near future? Who is planning a career change or a cross-country relocation? Who is most likely to stick with the organization for the long haul? Make a list of the employees who pose the highest risk of leaving their positions within the next five years.
Convene a cross-functional team of employees and managers from every department, and spend some time brainstorming about the skills, talents, and qualities that define excellent leadership in each area of expertise. This matrix should be used to help select potential candidates for future promotion, as well as to identify candidates and entry-level employees who should be flagged for possible leadership development.
One common mistake made in succession planning is taking an overly linear approach to identifying successors. Instead of considering only immediate subordinates, try to cast a much wider net for possible successors. Think outside the box for creative solutions, such as lateral moves, departmental transfers, and high-potential new hires. Ideally, you should name at least one primary and three to four alternate successors for each mission-critical position.
The next step is identifying the training, experience, and professional development that will be necessary to help each possible successor gain the credentials needed to evolve into their designated roles. Work with the named successors to create a detailed, time-bound action plan for each stage of their required training and experience. Assess each employee’s progress during the performance review process.
Once you’ve got a viable succession plan in place, don’t forget to revisit it and update it as circumstances change and roles shift over time. Remember, your succession plan is useful only as long as it is an accurate reflection of your company’s current situation!