Succession planning is a critical but often overlooked human resources strategic objective that many organisations do not address in a systematic way. Forecasting on the organisation’s future human resources requirements and having a clear succession plan in place will see the organisation live beyond employees who then resign, retire, are fired, fall sick or die.
It is very important to plan for the continuity of the business incase individuals in key positions leave the organisation. The unease around discussing a succession plan emanates from socio-cultural perspectives in Zimbabwe (Zvinoera kuronga achava mambo, iye mambo wacho asati afa) and the fear/sad reality of being replaced by a subordinate.
What then is a succession plan? A Succession Plan is a strategy for identifying and developing future leaders at all levels of the organisation. This involves considering the long term goals and objectives of the firm and developing a capacity and training needs assessment.
A clear succession plan prepares the organisation for all contingencies by identifying and training potential employees for advancement into key roles.
Short-sighted organisations that focus on current or quarterly results tend to lose sight of the “what if” that could happen in the firm. What if the Executive Director leaves? Should we hire internally or externally? Do we have anyone internally who is qualified? Even if we hire internally or externally; does anyone really know the specifics of what that person was doing? What kind of impact will this change have on our capacity to deliver on our mandate and on our relationship with clients and other stakeholders?
The following are the prerequisites to succession planning regardless of the sector of your business:
- Alignment of succession plan to strategic goals
A succession plan should be measurable and aligned to the organisation’s strategic and operational goals. Linking the succession plan to something such as the strategy, mission or vision, helps create a buy-in for the succession plan itself. Losing key leaders, knowledge or skills, or not having the talent in place to grow, can be disruptive to an organisation’s strategy.
As individuals leave and other people take on their responsibilities, the plan should be updated to identify the next person to be groomed for promotion. For organisations that engage in regular strategic planning process, the succession plan should be included in the discussions.
- Standardisation of Operations
Develop procedure manuals for essential tasks carried out by key positions. Include step-by-step guidelines that will provide a roadmap to the successor.
Assess changing competitive and organisational conditions and priorities. This ensures you re-evaluate your hiring needs and determine where the employees identified in the succession plan are in line with their development.
- Documentation of job descriptions
A job description is a full description of the responsibilities and duties that a job entails. Through a job description, it becomes easier to create and maintain the information that feeds into the succession plan.
- Development of competency models
A competency model is a framework that identifies a combination of the skills, knowledge and behaviours of employees, and in order to be considered useful, these models must be in close connection with the occupational activities of individuals. Competency models transparently define talented people.
They clearly determine what competencies are required for an organisation in the present and future to be successful and provide a basis for the performance management through creation of a work environment that encourages high performance among staff. They create clear job expectations for present and future and develop the list of competencies to determine how individuals may be trained for the future.
- Role Clarification
Carefully define the roles to be played by each key stakeholder group in the succession planning process. The succession plan should be effectively communicated to key stakeholders including the Board, CEO, senior executives, middle managers, supervisors and other employees.
- Training Needs Assessments
Ensure that individual strengths and areas for improvement are recognised. Offer training, job shadowing and mentoring to help employees develop new skills and improve on existing ones. Succession and career planning involves developing internal candidates who will be able to step into key positions when the need arises, provision of learning opportunities will help in grooming and retaining the identified key individuals.
- Development of a Hiring Strategy
Once internal employees have been identified as successors, a talent gap assessment should be conducted. This will assist in identifying where to focus your recruiting efforts in the succession plan.
Organisations should understand factors affecting the hiring process for key positions, they will be able to respond better or anticipate workforce demographic factors especially in an economy like Zimbabwe which has an unemployment rate of over 90 percent.