By: Kayla Bell on July 19th, 2013

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How to Ease the Succession Planning Process

Total Rewards | Business Management & Strategy | Best Practices

At Helios HR, we are often called upon for assistance when a key player(s) exits his or her role within an organization. Many businesses do not have a succession plan in place, which means that we are stepping into an organization after the decision has been made for an executive team member to leave. It is imperative that the proper actions are taken to identify and smoothly transition the appropriate backfill into the senior role. While this can be a time filled with uncertainty, the following steps can ease the process of identifying a successor that will be the right fit for your organization.

  1. Plan Ahead: Continuous organizational analysis should be conducted on both the current state of an organization as well as the projection of organizational needs, goals and potential challenges forecasted 4-6 years out. Part of planning ahead is to think through the qualities the successor should possess in order to drive your organization through the forecasted goals and potential challenges?
  2. Avoid Executive Cloning: The CEO that led your organization to its current level of success may not possess the same qualities and strengths as the CEO who will take you to the next level; this is true at any managerial level within a company. It's easy to begin searching for an identical backfill for a position, but it's important to account for the organizational needs moving forward. Create a profile for the ideal candidate to launch your organization onward and recruit for a successor that fits the new profile.
  3. Develop Internal Candidates: At all levels of succession within an organization, employees should be developed internally to grow in their career. Regular performance appraisals tied with individual development plans allow organizations to understand their talent landscape as it stands. Plan to mold that talent to fit the needs of the organization. Early identification of high potential leaders allows an organization to focus on employees who may be potential candidates for senior level roles in the company and tailor their development to offer preparation for a senior position.
  4. Ensure a Cultural Fit: We all know when a senior member of a team leaves an organization it can be an uneasy time for employees. Bringing in a new leader who will shift the entire culture of an organization can result in an unmotivated and disengaged workforce. During the interview process, be sure to understand the culture that the potential successor prefers to work in and determine if the culture that your organization intends to maintain is a match.
  5. Involve the Senior Management Team: Senior management should be involved at all levels of succession planning. If they understand why the continuous organizational analysis and employee development is occurring, and how it will better position the organization in the long run, they will be more involved during the execution of the succession planning process. Once senior management is on board, they are likely to better allocate the appropriate resources and execute a stronger communications plan around succession planning. It is also imperative to involve the senior management team in the interview/decision process for high level successors. In addition to ensuring a cultural fit within the organization, it's important to find someone who will align with the current management team.
  6. Plan for Transition: Proper planning for a smooth transition into a senior level position is crucial. Ideally, successors will have time to shadow and meet with the individuals they are backfilling, but this is rarely the case. Transition plans should be formally written and discussed between all parties involved with measureable metrics, and should aim to be 12 months long for executive level positions. This time should be used for the new executive to build relationships with senior management, understand and submerge themselves in the organizational culture, develop the trust of the employees, and fully understand how they will drive the organization forward to success.

Determining the individual who will be the best fit to propel your organization forward can be challenging, but executing these six simple steps will help your organization successfully transition the right leader into your company.