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Creating a succession plan
  • Employers should define exactly what the organization is trying to accomplish with its succession plan before continuing the process.

Many companies have a formal succession planning program. In those companies, the human resources department typically provides tools (such as a policy, formal training and mentoring programs, and documentation forms), but identifying and developing high-potential employees usually remains the responsibility of individual managers and supervisors.

In some organizations, succession planning is confidential, done entirely without the knowledge of the employees tagged for development. In other companies, the employees who are being considered for advancement know it and actively participate in the process. Regardless of which position the company takes, remember that the company is developing employees for additional responsibilities — but not making promises for promotions or changes in job responsibilities.

Reasons for a succession plan

Organizations develop succession plans for a variety of reasons. Among those reasons are:

  • To ensure there are people available to fill key positions at all times,
  • To ensure ongoing business success and continuity,
  • To transfer business knowledge and values,
  • To prepare the future leadership of the company,
  • To contribute to the longevity and success of the organization,
  • To maintain the organization’s value to shareholders,
  • To ensure an orderly transfer of power, and
  • To provide a continuous pipeline of employee talent to meet the organization’s needs in key management positions.

Before creating a succession plan, first lay the groundwork. Define exactly what the organization is trying to accomplish with this process. In a smaller organization, it may involve no more than finding successors for a few key positions in the organization. In a larger organization, it may involve developing multiple succession plans for different management tiers involving hundreds of people.