Succession planning questions: Is it for everyone?

Succession planning questions: Is it for everyone?

By Mary Anne Kennedy –

Succession planning isn’t just a touchy-feely concept; it really can be applied across a broad spectrum of business types and sizes and has legitimate benefits. Succession planning is how you prepare your workforce for the future, today.

Employees today have to do more with less. Supervisors are managing an increasingly stressed-out workforce, one frustrated from a slow-to-improve economy. Good managers are hard to find, and when you have one driving your organization’s success, you want her to stick around for the long haul, and assume positions of increasing responsibility. But without a succession plan in place for your key talent, the best leaders leave.

Maybe they’re jumping ship for a better offer or perhaps they feel trapped in a dead-end role. That’s why it’s crucial for you to develop and apply a plan so your organization can make a seamless transition that keeps it productive and on track, even as the torch passes, no matter what industry you’re in. Better yet, your succession planning process can reduce that turnover in the first place by showing key individuals that you’re investing in their future.

In a BLR webinar titled “Succession Planning for HR: Finding the Deep End of Your Executive Talent Pool,” Mary Anne Kennedy outlined the key concepts of succession planning for us. She advised that the overall goal is to recruit and retain top talent by implementing an effective succession planning program to ensure a strong bench of talent for future success of the organization. You do this by having future roles in mind when hiring an individual. Not only does this give you people to fall back on when turnover occurs in key roles, it also gives the individuals in question a clearer career path.

After the webinar, participants were encouraged to ask questions, and they really wanted to know whether the concept of succession planning can be applied across the board:

Q: Is there an optimum company size-range recommended for useful or successful succession planning?

A: “From my experience, I don’t think that a [company] size matters.” Kennedy advised. In smaller organizations – which often tend to be silos – it does, however, take an effort to recruit people and ensure they can do more than just the job they’re being recruited for. Naturally, in larger organizations there’s more opportunity for succession planning. However, every organization has to find a way to ensure their employees know that they have a potential for career development – regardless of the size of the organization.

You may have to be creative, but without it you’ll have increased turnover. Without succession planning, you’ll likely have people just coming in for 3 to 5 years and leaving. This may be okay for your organization, but it is definitely something to consider, especially since new recruits often ask about the career potential beyond the position at hand.

Q: Can succession planning work for non-profits? What if my non-profit organization has more than half of the staff over age 50?

A: Yes, it can be applied across the board – even if you have fewer opportunities to apply succession planning, there are still benefits. Especially if you have a workforce with a large percentage nearing retirement, you need to get a “bench” in there (i.e. get individuals lined up that can fill the role of the ones who are leaving). In this instance, you need to get a recruiting effort going, maybe even at a lower level than the roles you’re replacing. Analyze your situation and see what makes sense for recruiting. People are going to be retiring, and without a transition plan in place, that knowledge walks out the door (and money walks out with it).

As you can see, succession planning isn’t just for Fortune 500 companies. For more information on succession planning, order the webinar recording. To register for a future webinar, visit

Mary Anne Kennedy is the principal consultant at MAKHR Consulting, LLC, a full-service human resources advisory firm. MAKHR Consulting provides the full spectrum of HR services and programs, including all aspects of talent acquisition – from the full cycle recruitment process to succession planning and performance management.

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