Have you ever heard the saying “Fail to plan, plan to fail”? Well, it turns out that this age-old adage rings especially true for UK businesses when it comes to succession planning.
As recent reports have shown, the UK is currently facing a skills shortage across multiple industries – especially in tech and engineering. In fact, the Open University’s annual Business Barometer Report, 68% of small to medium-sized businesses and 86% of larger organisations report that they are struggling to hire enough skilled-workers to meet their business demand.
While there are many factors at play here, such as the increased pace of the digital transformation overriding the supply of talent, those over 50 opting for an early retirement, and Brexit forcing highly skilled workers to leave the UK – this has taught us a valuable lesson: we can no longer afford to wait for talented individuals to simply “fall into our laps”.
We need to take an active approach in nurturing and grooming future talent within our own organisations. We need to start thinking about succession planning as a long-term investment rather than just a “nice to have”.
What is succession planning?
Succession planning isn’t just about finding someone to fill a role – it’s about the long game.
CIPD define succession planning as “the process of identifying and developing potential future leaders and senior managers, as well as individuals, to fill business-critical roles”.
In other words, it is about recognizing and nurturing talent, both current employees and potential future hires.
Succession planning also allows for better contingency planning when it comes to unexpected vacancies, as well as creating a pipeline of potential leaders for the future growth and success of the organisation.
How do we go about implementing successful succession plans?
Succession planning takes time and precision. And you need to make sure that the process is aligned and integrated into your overall business strategy. Here are some steps to help you get started:
1. Internal Assessment and Talent Review
What skills do you need in your organisation now and in the future? Are there any potential gaps that need to be filled? Are your structures up to scratch?
Take a hard look at your current employees – do they have the potential to fill these gaps and take on future leadership roles?
Do your employees have the knowledge to do the job currently? Can they learn the skills needed? Are they able to do the job physically?
It is important to remember that succession planning is not just about finding someone to fill a role – it is about finding the best possible candidate for the role, regardless of whether or not they are currently employed by your organisation.
2. Speak to the potential candidates
Now you have identified the skills required and potential successors – it’s time to have a discussion with them. What are their career aspirations? Are they interested in progressing within the organisation?
This open dialogue is so important in ensuring buy-in and commitment from the candidates. It also allows for a realistic assessment of whether they have the potential and desire to fulfil the role in the future. And it shows that you value the individual and are investing in their future within your organisation.
3. Create a structured development plan
Once you have identified the potential candidates and their career aspirations, it’s time to create a structured development plan. What training or experience do they need to reach their goals?
Think about mentoring, training, job shadowing or even secondments. It is important to remember that development plans need to be tailored to the individual – there is no one size fits all approach.
4. Continuous review
Succession planning is not a one-off process – it needs to continually be reviewed and adapted as the needs of your organisation change.
Check in with the potential candidates regularly, monitoring their progress and adjusting the development plan accordingly. It could be that they decide they no longer have an interest in the role, or that they excel beyond expectations. Either way, it is important to be flexible and adapt the succession plan as needed.
5. Integrate your succession plan into your hiring strategy
Last but not least, don’t forget to factor in your succession plan into your hiring strategy.
Are you recruiting for a specific role with the intention of developing them for future leadership positions? Or are there particular skill sets that you need to fill now, but also in the future?
Look for potential candidates both inside and outside the organisation, and ensure that your hiring decisions align with the future needs and goals identified in your succession plan.
Planning for the future
Succession planning is about looking at the long-term growth and success of your organisation – don’t wait until it’s too late to start thinking about it. Take the time to invest in your future skills now and reap the benefits in the years to come.
Remember, it’s not just about filling roles – it’s about identifying and nurturing potential skills and talent for the future success of your business.
Happy succession planning!