6 Tips for Succession Planning

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Average job tenure now ranges between 2 years to 3 years. If we were to plot global average job tenure in the last 2 decades, it certainly would be a skewed distribution. Close to three quarters of employees would have an average job tenure of less than 4 years. Switching a job in less than a year or two is no longer considered a taboo. Succession planning for important roles and positions is now one of the key business management priorities.

Identify the key roles and positions

The succession planning process starts with this step. What positions in your team are the most critical to your organization’s success, mission and vision. You need to have absolute clarity about the skills required for these positions. Along with your HR manager, document the skill requirements including functional skills, attitudinal skills, behavioral skills, academic qualifications, work experience etc. It is similar to creating a buyer persona. Instead, you are creating an employee persona. The idea is to hire right.

While hiring for key positions, give special attention to the culture fit. This is true for all employees but more critical for the key positions within your company. A cultural misfit can cause a lot of disruption in the working culture and team bonding.

Ensure clarity of roles and responsibilities

There should be no ambiguity when it comes to expectations from the job. Both for you and the employee. While I consider this as a work in progress document as responsibilities evolve with new initiatives, strategies and results, always address any ambiguity and doubts the employee may have. It is good to share expectations formally via email or hard copy, but never overlook the importance of a personal meeting to discuss the role. Revisit this quarterly or whenever there is a major change. Answer all questions. Ensure expectations are realistic and results are measurable.

The employee too needs to be certain about the outcomes. What is in it for her if she can consistently deliver and achieve the goals?

creating a career plan as a part of succession planning for your team.

This also gives you an opportunity for career planning. Employees often get delusional about their career prospects. This is when they are most vulnerable to job offers from competitors and recruitment agencies.

Create a buddy system

In spite of all your efforts and intentions, good employees will move on. Some give the management opportunity and time to find and train a replacement. Some move on instantly. I am not of the opinion of delaying resignations once an employee is mentally ready to switch jobs. In such a situation, you need immediate handover of responsibilities with the least disruption to work schedules and project deadlines.

While it is imperative to have a handover process for your organization, it helps to have a buddy system in place. Every position within your organization must have a back up buddy. Someone who can fill in the shoes of an employee during his or her absence from work.

This is not difficult to achieve if planned well. An HR manager could be a back-up buddy for the customer service manager. Your lead accountant can be a back up for the purchase executive. As an owner for the business, you could be a back up for the operations manager or the sales manager.

Each employee should have a scheduled meeting with her back-up once every week to share updates and progress. Cross-functional process trainings could be scheduled once every quarter. SOPs need to be documented and accessible. Contact lists and escalation matrix, both internal and external needs to be up to date.

Keep external back-ups ready

This is a neglected but very important succession planning strategy. Network well with external resources. Stalk external candidates who match the skill requirements for your key positions on job and networking sites.

For example, if a project manager is one of your key employees, you should have a few project managers within your network on LinkedIn. You or your HR manager should have marked up to 10 or 15 such resumes on the job site you prefer. The idea is to be ready to strike if opportunity arrives. Looking for the right candidate is the most time consuming activity for mid and senior level hiring. Eliminate this step to save time by being prepared.

Regular health check ups

Employees exhibit certain early warning signals when they get disoriented from their company and are planning to switch jobs. Frequent unplanned leaves, missed deadlines, skipping informal company get togethers are some of these early warning signals. Keep a track of these. Ask your human resources team to develop and maintain an early warning signal tracker for all employees.

This will give you the opportunity to intervene on time and boost the retention probability.

Create an Employee Value Proposition

What is the most influential lever for employee retention at your workplace? Have you defined what is your employee value proposition? What makes your team go beyond their responsibilities to meet company objectives? What is the probability of your team rejecting better job offers from other companies?

Creating an employee value proposition will help you retain employees. Read one of my earlier posts on how to create an employee value proposition.

What other tips and strategies can you recommend for succession planning? Please share in the comments section below.

By Nitesh Verma

Founder - Business Management Blog. I am an independent business strategy consultant, helping companies take data driven business decisions. My mission is to find and implement simple solutions for complex business problems.

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