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How to Expand Succession Planning to Leadership Continuity

Losing a key leader leaves a hole at your company—no matter if it was a planned retirement or a sudden resignation.

The departure represents more than an empty spot on the organizational chart, too. And while many companies focus on finding someone to fill the role or assigning responsibilities to another employee (or employees), leaders contribute more than their tasks—and this shouldn’t be overlooked.

By using succession planning software to create plan that focuses on the skills needed to keep the company moving forward, rather than just the tasks associated with the position, HR teams can ensure leadership development and continuity within their organization. However, it’s more than just a single plan, it’s about creating a culture of succession where every employee is both teacher and student—preparing for upward mobility while teacher others to fill their role.

Here are three steps to build a succession planning culture and plan when it comes to loss of key leadership:
  1. Engage senior leaders in succession planning
It’s easy to view succession planning as something that simply needs to be accomplished—and then forgotten about until an appropriate situation develops. But if you consider it just another box to check you’ve already missed the point.  Successful companies realize that succession planning must be ingrained into the fabric of the company. Start by meeting with your senior leaders for an honest conversation about succession planning. Since considering their own departure could be emotional, be sure to first address any concerns and questions that may be on your leaders’ minds.

After the conversation, leaders must take their commitment to help create a culture of succession out of the conference room and into their daily actions. When making project assignments, leaders should think about which skills and relationships will help build the next generation of leaders. By actively pairing rising stars with more seasoned employees for mentorship, employees can learn to model the behavior and pick up the skills they will need to step into their future roles. During performance reviews, leaders should also ask employees about their future goals and work together to create a personal development plan. These development plans can then be tracked using your succession planning software to ensure they align with both the company needs and your employees personal goals.
 
  1. Use succession planning software to find skill gaps

Each person has a unique skill set. When someone takes over the role of a departing leader, they may be suited for the role in most regards, but could be missing a few key leadership development skills. For example, if a leader is a great public speaker and their replacement does not have this gift, then the company needs to either find another employee to help with speaking engagements or help the new leader grow his skills through leadership training. By proactively determining these leadership training gaps using succession planning software (well in advance of a departure), you can prevent issues like metrics slipping, customer dissatisfaction increasing, or revenues decreasing.

With machine learning software, you can see what skills will be missing when key leaders leave the company, so that you can be proactive instead of reactive about leadership development. The software lets you evaluate your current talent base and determine who is a high performer and who needs further coaching (and everyone in between). The tools can then help figure out what skills future leaders need to develop and the best learning programs to help fill these gaps.
 
  1. Create a plan to develop employees into future leadership positions.

With a centralized tool that both employees and leaders can access, employees can control their futures and managers have a high-level view of their employees’ paths.
 
Managers should meet with the employees who are in the position of moving into leadership roles and collaborate with them on their personal development plan. It's essential for employees to be a key part of the process and feel autonomy over their career.
 “When people are more excited about their work, they invest more time and energy into their job,” says Atlanta career coach Hallie Crawford in a recent blog post.
 
Help employees determine trainings that they can attend to learn specific skills. Then find opportunities in the company, such as leading a new initiative, where they can hone and practice those skills. Employees then have a personalized development path and a plan to help them reach their goals while the company ensures leadership continuity. By building future leaders before they are needed, the company can easily fill roles and skills as employees leave the company.
 
One of the biggest mistakes company leaders make regarding succession planning is to stay in the planning stage. By adopting a succession culture, you begin to take the actions needed to create the leadership continuity that your company, employees and customers deserve.
 
Want to learn more about how to expand your succession planning for leadership continuity? Find out how out succession planning tools can help.