April 23, 2019
Succession Planning 14 August 2017
How to Develop a Succession Plan
Hannah Son
succession plan, Training and Development, Evaluating Skills, company culture

Many companies avoid succession planning altogether, fearing it will be a difficult and expensive process while other companies consider their “succession plan” completed after deciding on their next CEO. 

A proper succession plan, however, does not have to be painfully unpleasant, it should, in fact, be a set process that’s revisited often by company leaders, edited accordingly to align with your company’s direction and carefully planned to provide guidelines for employees and potential employees. It should not be a plan for the replacement of just one high-level employee but rather a framework for developing leaders within your company and moving them into the right positions that will provide the right results for your company. A proper succession plan will move your company forward without a hitch. 

Why Succession Planning?

At its heart, succession planning is an important way to identify employees who have the current skills--or the potential to develop skills--that can help them move up in an organization, or on to other positions. Advantages of succession planning:

  • Provides a better understanding of the talent pipeline and highlights areas for development.

  • Ensures critical positions have people who are ready to fulfill them on different timelines.

  • Manages the risk of human capital with the same rigorous standards organizations use to manage financial or business strategies, by managing change proactively rather than reactively.

  • Gives a competitive advantage as company leaders focus strategically on the future rather than only the next few quarters.

  • Keeps your organization ahead of the curve—if your Board or regulators haven’t demanded a succession plan, chances are they will soon.

  • Creates a process that quickly drives itself and requires much less input from company leaders as time goes on, and in fact saves time in the long run.


Creating your plan: 

Before creating your succession plan, make sure you are aware of the top 3 things to include:

1. Training and Development: Decide which milestones or goals should be created for each employee, what skills do they need to learn to progress, what tasks or projects can they accomplish to develop these skills? Does your organization have the proper tools and programs to develop these internal training programs?

2. Evaluating Skills: How will you evaluate their efforts? What deadlines will be in place? Will your evaluation strategy be effective?

3. Getting Hiring Executives Involved: Those involved with hiring should also be involved in this process to contribute and to be on the same page. This way as future hires or promotions come around the same strategy is maintained to help the company reach success.

If you want to know more in detail, or more benefits check out our succession planning blog posts here. Putting together a succession plan doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, keeping a succession plan simple will help ensure that reviewing and updating it becomes a routine process. Some tips when creating your plan include: 

  • Be proactive with your succession plan: It can take some time to find and prepare a promising candidate for a leadership role. Even if you don’t think you’ll need a replacement in the near future, prepping someone to assume an important role creates an invaluable safety net.

  • Revisit and revise:successful succession plan is one that is flexible and can be revised to accommodate potential changes in funding, business direction or personal circumstances. Revisit any written plan on a regular basis to ensure it accurately reflects the present state of the business, distinctly outlines roles and responsibilities and adjusts transition timelines and deadlines as required.

  • Provide opportunities to peak performers: As you identify your top performers, offer mentoring and training, which is a true article of value to help them develop new skills and refine existing ones. Remember that good leaders not only need technical acumen, but also strong soft skills, including standout verbal and written communication abilities, as well as tact and diplomacy.

Developing a succession plan can be a huge undertaking — but one that doesn’t have to be a stressful one. 

Success Story

Here is an example of succession planning done right :

McCormick & Co.: In 2008, spice and flavorings giant McCormick & Co. transitioned their CEO position from Robert Lawless to his successor Alan Wilson using a succession model praised by Bloomberg for being thoughtful, comprehensive, and well-executed. Lawless prevented being rapidly forced out by his successor by establishing a transparent timeline of five years, planning his transition to a non-executive chairman of the board role. 

After years of monitoring the progress of the candidates and meeting with them, the board and Lawless settled on Wilson. Lawless says Wilson’s fit with the company culture was what made him stand out in the end because it was so important for a McCormick CEO to provide leadership, but also to be people-oriented and understand front-line issues.

The McCormick succession model continues to function well, as seen last year during the transition from the CEO position to Lawrence E. Kurzius, another internally developed executive. 

There’s just no way around it: Succession planning must be a priority for company leaders. How’s yours looking?