Although most organizations have identified attracting and retaining talent as one of the most important concerns facing their business, many of them have struggled to implement comprehensive succession planning strategies. This has unfortunately led to many leaders stepping into critical roles without the preparation they need to be successful.

Succession planning can accomplish a number of objectives that will not only help candidates to excel in their new positions, but also provide a broader set of benefits to the organization as a whole. When assessing the value of succession planning, it’s important to keep these objectives in mind.

Improved Retention

Turnover is one of the most disruptive challenges an organization can face. Replacing an employee is not only an expensive and time-consuming undertaking, but it also represents a lost opportunity to groom someone for a future leadership position. In the case of valuable high-potential employees, turnover is especially damaging to an organization’s talent strategy.

Of course, one of the primary reasons people leave in the first place is because they don’t see an opportunity to advance their careers by remaining with their current employer. Having a strong succession strategy in place that assesses leadership potential and sets employees on a clear development path does quite a lot to demonstrate that they have a promising future with the company. When employees feel like they have opportunities for growth and development with their current organization, they are less likely to seek those opportunities elsewhere. This makes it easier for a company to retain and develop its best talent rather than constantly scrambling to replace its high-potential employees.

Individual Development and Engagement

Succession planning provides an excellent foundation for employee development strategies. By developing competency models that establish the skills and expertise needed to be successful in various organizational roles, companies can clarify their training and development process. This helps them to better prepare employees to step into more senior roles when the time comes rather than leaving development to chance.

Identifying and developing high-potential leaders also helps to boost their level of engagement. When organizations fail to make development opportunities available, employees can easily become disengaged, assuming that they aren’t valued or appreciated for the work they do. While some of them will end up leaving, many disengaged employees instead allow their performance to deteriorate and engage in increasingly negative behavior. Providing guided development opportunities to high-potential employees helps them to stay engaged and feel valued, which encourages them to continue performing at a high level as they work to build the skills and experience necessary for them to advance their careers.

Business Continuity

Losing a key employee can be incredibly disruptive for an organization, especially when it comes to senior leadership. Whatever duties and tasks they were responsible for don’t simply go away following their departure; someone in the organization must take up the slack until the position can be filled once again. This can quickly result in people in other departments taking on additional work in addition to their regular responsibilities, potentially diminishing productivity and effectiveness, not to mention creating substantial frustration.

By establishing a strong succession pipeline, organizations can fill vacancies much more quickly, with minimal confusion or disruption to business operations. This ensures that personnel transitions will be as orderly and predictable as possible, which makes it easier for an organization to make long-term plans regardless of who is occupying key leadership positions. Since candidates are being developed and prepared to step into key roles, there is less uncertainty about whether they will be able to ensure business continuity whenever a changeover occurs.

Reduce Risk

When organizations become dependent upon longtime employees, they sometimes fail to build out the necessary processes and knowledge base that would allow another person to step into key leadership positions. Should those employees leave the organization suddenly, they can take a great deal of expertise and critical information about how to do their job with them. If the company has done nothing to facilitate a transition, it could face significant risks when the time comes to fill a vacancy because the incoming candidate may not be fully prepared for what the role actually demands of them.

Establishing a succession plan that incorporates mentoring helps to ensure that critical knowledge about what it takes to be successful in a position is not lost when someone departs. Ideally, leadership assessments can help determine what competencies are necessary for success and should inform development efforts. At the same time, mentoring programs allow established leaders to share insights that can only be learned through personal experience. Preserving this knowledge is critical to any succession pipeline because it allows incoming candidates to step into a role with a much clearer picture of what they need to do to be successful.

In an economy characterized by high levels of job mobility, it’s more important than ever for organizations to design and implement succession planning strategies that help them to identify and prepare high-potential employees to step into leadership positions in the future. By targeting these candidates early, companies can do a better job of retaining and developing the talent they already have within their organization and create a level of continuity that minimizes damaging disruption and facilitates long-term business success.

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