Having recently led a strategic planning process for a non-profit dealing with critical staffing challenges, and with our organization (WCS) looking to expand our team – not to mention the ongoing news and anecdotal accounts of staffing shortages through most sectors since COVID – staff succession planning has been on my radar of late. I’ve realized it is an important thing to attend to regardless of your organization’s size, structure, or sector.   

Succession planning is the process of identifying very important positions in an organization and creating a talent pipeline by preparing employees to fill vacancies in their organization as others retire or move on.  

Succession planning helps ensure business continuity and performance, particularly during times of shifting leadership and change. Even when there is no identifiable successor within an organization, succession planning can help identify the knowledge, skills and training needed in a future external candidate. 

Risks of going without a succession plan

Having no identifiable succession plan for critical roles poses an enormous risk to the organization.  These risks include:   

  • Loss of mission critical knowledge that may never be recovered.   
  • Significant loss of time bringing a new successor up to speed.   
  • Potential disruptions to workplace processes, workflows, and protocols. 
  • Naming a successor who lacks personal drive, commitment, knowledge, training or skills needed to perform the job successfully.   
A successful succession plan should include these key steps: 
  1. Identify key positions – Consider vulnerability (no successor exists) and criticality (vacancy impact on the organization) to determine which positions should be the focus of succession planning.  
  2. Develop eligibility criteria – Develop a profile of the position and the performance expectations; this will help your organization determine who has the experience to take on the role. 
  3. Identify a talent pipeline – Using the criteria you’ve developed, identify positions well-suited to transition into the successor position should a vacancy arise.  
  4. Nominate successors from qualified positions – Identify employees in the qualified positions who could fill the vacancy or, if you need to post the position for equal access, apply as candidates.  
  5. Prepare successors – Create and execute a plan for potential successors’ learning and growth through training, mentoring, cross-functional placements in other areas of the organization, opportunities to work on and lead special projects, etc.  

So, if you’re like so many other organizations currently dealing with staffing shortages, filling those vacancies with an eye on your succession plan can help you hire those who are better positioned to move along your talent pipeline.  

Succession Planning Dovetails with Strategic Planning

Succession planning can dovetail with strategic planning, which is our forte – and strategic planning will help you clarify priorities and focus your limited resources if you are dealing with staffing challenges. To learn more about what we offer, contact Shannon (sgordon [AT] whiistlercentre.ca).