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  • Writer's pictureSusan & Renée

What Does Succession Mean?

What comes to mind when you hear the word, succession?


Is it the recent ascension to the English throne of King Charles III?



Is it the recently concluded show about a family behind a global media conglomerate that won 14 Emmys and 9 Golden Globe awards?


These larger-than-life examples can make it feel like succession is something that mere mortals do not have to think about. Only those people who live in castles or mansions need to create these types of plans. Business leaders who breathe less rarified air don’t need to think about succession, right?


That is not the case at all. Anyone who is in an authority position needs to think about what will happen when they are gone. Whether you are a team leader, a company CEO or a business owner, succession is an essential piece of guiding your organization. Part of leading with integrity is not only being invested in the job while you are there, but ensuring that the people you work with are cared for when you leave.


In addition to breeding a lot of insecurity, lack of succession planning can cost organizations real dollars in recruiting and training expenses. The goal is role continuity where talent is developed within the organization so that the company is prepared when these skills are needed in the future.


Proactivity is the name of the game. Rather than waiting until a change is imminent, creating a succession strategy that can be actioned when the time is right increases the agility of a company and increases organizational stability.


There are some key elements to consider in developing your own succession plan.


Analyze Key Players

The first step is to identify all critical roles and responsibilities within a company. What competencies are required to fill each role? For example, employees that have evolved with the company may have taken on wide ranging duties and developed varied areas of expertise. It will be important to take some time to assess if their current responsibilities could remain in a single position or if these duties would have to be redistributed.


Identify Talent

Using the critical role analysis as a template, create talent profiles of current employees. These profiles would include individual skills, experiences and career aspirations. It is not just looking at their resumé. It is spending time getting to know your employees. This can unveil opportunities for both the employee and the business. For example, an employee may have some hidden talent or education that would benefit the company. Keep in mind that succession is not just about moving up the ladder, but identifying people that may want to make lateral moves that more effectively leverage their skill set. Creating this type of rich database can be a wonderful resource when transition appears on the horizon. The process of really understanding your talent environment has the added cultural benefit of making employees feel valued. 


Cultivate Talent

By following the first two steps, you come away with an in depth understanding of what is necessary to fill critical positions and the available talent pool. This creates a framework for a targeted training program that can fill skill gaps that have been identified. The training programs give ample opportunity for people to demonstrate their affinity for particular positions or tasks. It also communicates commitment to promoting employees. This loyalty is often reciprocated resulting in less turn over.


Educate Transparently

Essential throughout this process is transparent communication. Identifying talent, assessing career aspirations and providing training opportunities does not guarantee that a particular employee will be the ultimate candidate when a role becomes vacant. It is important to be clear that the goal of succession planning is positioning the company for long term sustainability. Focusing on employee development is just one part of the process.


Whether you are a small business owner or a corporate leader, taking the time to think about what comes next and taking steps to prepare will assure the long term success of your organization.

Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante 

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