They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. But in a workplace without succession planning, it can also make your operations come to a standstill.
Whether you’re leaving your position or simply out for the day, someone needs to do your job when you’re gone. This is why succession planning isn’t just an exit plan. It’s a process that must cover two main areas—documenting what you do and preparing others to do it—so things run smoothly in your absence.
It’s About More Than Retirement
Some people hear “succession planning” and figure they don’t need to worry about it because they have no immediate plans to retire or find a new job.
But let’s face it—everyone misses work once in a while. Maybe you’re going on vacation, or you’ve suddenly fallen ill; either way, your team has to make do without you.
Personnel at all levels—not just in leadership positions—should have at least the basics of their jobs documented. For example, we’ve seen many instances in which long-standing team members have memorized their roles in a process. This can be great for efficiency; experienced and knowledgeable people make for a well-oiled machine doesn’t have to reference instructions.
But anyone who has ever worked in step-by-step process knows that when one step changes, it has a ripple effect on every other step. When others have to jump in when you’re gone and they don’t know what to do, work is often slowed or even stopped altogether. This can be disastrous.
Thorough succession planning ensures that those stepping into your shoes can fill the gap with minimal disruption, no matter what you do or how long you’ll be gone.
Are Your Subs Ready?
It’s one thing to have a plan in place; it’s another to make sure it works. After all, a backup quarterback doesn’t go into a football game if he hasn’t learned the playbook or been given reps at practice. That’s why succession planning also includes the education of your replacement personnel.
This is especially important when your plan addresses future leadership gaps at your workplace due to retirement or job changes. Many employers like to fill these openings from within, especially if the candidate has worked the “front lines” for a long time. Such employees often have in-depth knowledge the actual work being done and have developed long-term loyalty to the organization.
These employees, however, often lack the leadership, financial, strategic and risk management skills to successfully run a business. These needs are universal regardless of industry or how well you perform the work you do. Even the most well-intentioned organization will fail without proper fiscal practices and responsible growth.
When creating your plan, include steps to identify, develop and educate future leaders. This will give them the tools to succeed at their new roles and carry your organization into the future.
As you can see, succession planning goes well beyond “Who will lead when so-and-so retires?” There are many facets to consider, and your business advisory CPAs can help you navigate all of them.
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