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Succession Planning - Insurance For Your Business

Aug 17, 2007
A few Sally's pregnant, Hugh had an offer from another company he couldn't refuse, Des had just had enough and decided to retire early, poor Charlene is on indefinite sick leave due to a serious illness and you've just won a significant piece of business you've been chasing for the last two years. These are all common events that can throw up serious obstacles - in some businesses losing key people can be crippling.

Quite often succession planning is done on an ad hoc basis, rarely documented and stops short of really reaping the considerable benefits that can flow from doing it well.

Key jobs have to be defined and likely candidates identified: the number of positions considered important should be as wide as possible. Identifying people who have potential to move up and then developing a plan to make it happen can have tremendous spin offs. While the possible promotions or transfers may not occur, imagine the advantages of knowing you have a plan to handle staff leaving and being able to meet the demands of new business.

The biggest benefit from this process is actually developing people to meet the needs. On-going development will help people grow, enable them to do their jobs better, let them know you do have a plan and contribute to their own career development and job satisfaction.

The process is not difficult but has to be rigorous and followed through to the action stage where individual development plans are implemented. The process needs to include a close examination of your business plans and current and future jobs. A "talent pool" then needs to be identified of those people with high performance and high potential.

Having a process for consistently assessing both current performance and future potential is important.

A systematic analysis of "what ifs" in both the immediate and medium term for each position identified and a cross reference to your talent pool will then provide a basis for your plan.

A thorough analysis of the gap between what may be needed and what you currently have can then be met through careful planning.

The result will no doubt impact on other people management areas:

Recruitment - should we be recruiting to replace leavers or for future positions?

Performance management - Are we setting standards and development goals high enough to prepare for future needs rather than just the current demands?

Rewards - Are we attracting and retaining the people of the future?

Development - Are jobs designed to build people for the future? Are their opportunities for people to acquire new skills and grow? Do we need to identify and develop the competencies required in the future? Does everyone have an Individual Development Plan?

Policies - Do these provide a framework and processes for all the above to happen?

The business benefits
The benefits of growing and developing people for the future are enormous and the plan in place to take care of possible obstacles is no less than just good management. Often the cry is "Maybe people are so well developed for future role that they leave if they aren't challenged." This is possible - the secret is to keep them challenged. The alternative - having people who are unemployable elsewhere, is not too attractive.

The outcome of effective succession planning and growing your own people can be directly related to seeing results in growing your business.
About the Author
Paul Phillips is a Director of Horizon Management Group; a specialist human resource management consulting firm. He has over 30 years experience in HR and, while based in Australia, has worked in a number of overseas locations. www.horizonmg.com
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