Regardless of size, one cannot run a business without talented staff ready to move into key positions when the current talent leaves. Taking early steps to ensure your business is planning with succession strategies and implementation top of mind will matter in the long run. While you cannot always predict when a key employee will leave a company, you can prepare for personnel changes with your company’s succession plan.

Succession planning is a strategy for identifying and developing future leaders at your company — not just at the top but for roles at all levels of your organization. If you’re wondering how to create a succession plan, here are six key steps to follow.

1. Plan Proactively

As previously mentioned, you may not be able to predict an employee’s departure. Sometimes, you will have time to prepare, such as a planned retirement, but in many cases, you will not know until you have just two weeks’ notice to act quickly. This unknown is what makes implementing a succession plan now so vital.

It is also necessary to do this for each role within your company, not just the leadership team. Every position plays a part in your company’s success, so having a plan in case of an employee’s departure is beneficial to securing your company’s growth and retention. When you have a plan, your other employees feel valued and well represented. Panic from leadership during an employee’s leave can cause panic amongst the rest of your employees, too.

2. Identify Potential Succession Candidates

One of the best ways to plan for sudden resignations is to consistently be on the lookout for potential succession candidates for the various roles within your company. In addition to looking for a person who can step up into the open position, you will also want to have candid conversations with your employees about where they want to take their careers. It is counterproductive to plan for an employee to step into management if that individual has no interest in growing their career into a leadership role or staying with your company. Develop a plan alongside your employees to improve retention and strengthen your succession plan.

When identifying potential succession candidates, try to think outside of the box. Even if there is a clear subsequent choice in line for a role, remember to consider others in the organization who may have similar, if not better, skillsets for the position at hand. This approach will help keep your options open when implementing your succession strategy.

3. Talk About Professional Development Efforts

Again, communicate with your employees to understand how they may want to grow their careers with your company. In addition to having individual discussions, you should have company-wide professional development efforts to see how employees may raise their hands for roles in your succession plan. These efforts can include additional training opportunities, certifications, and other professional development initiatives that grow your employees’ skillsets while lining them up for a future opening.

When discussing these opportunities with your employees, remind them that these are not promises. Openings may come about in the company, but there is no guarantee that your succession plan will need implementation soon. Be candid about this — your employees will appreciate the transparency.

4. Test Out Your Succession Plan

Offering professional development opportunities for your chosen candidates can be a great way to grow these employees while best preparing them for your future succession plans. You can also implement job rotation or task sharing by connecting your succession candidates with mentors. This connection will help you assess how your succession plan would work.

Give your employee time to adjust to taking on different tasks before deciding they aren’t the right fit. Learning something new takes time.

5. Incorporate Your Hiring Strategy

As you create and develop your succession plan, look for talent gaps or areas for improvement within your company’s structure. You will also want to identify areas where one person may be holding on to too much work since this will be a significant hit to your company if they were to leave. Ensure that each employee has a fair workload and consider adding roles to your recruiting efforts if the workload seems uneven or should be better distributed.

6. Consider Your Successor

It may be hard to think of leaving or stepping down from within your organization but consider that you will not be able to lead in your role forever. Look around your organization for a succession candidate who could not only fill your shoes as a leader but also be someone you would trust with leading your team to success. Take the time now to prepare for that future transition through continued training and the development of your team. Even if it is decades away, it is not too early to prepare for your company’s leadership transition by choosing your successor.

When it comes to leading your team, succession planning may not be the first thing on your mind. However, you cannot control your employee’s decisions. Prepare for any outcome across your organization by growing your current talent, identifying talent gaps, and planning succession strategies.

If you need help future-proofing your business, give us a call at TSP Family Office.