Succession Planning: Think About it Early and Often

By Chelsey Paulson

Succession planning is the process of identifying high-potential employees, evaluating and honing their skills and abilities, and preparing them for advancement into positions which are key to the success of business operations and objectives.


Determine the future of your business and develop a strategy plan with specific goals and objectives.

  • How will the state of the business today affect the business operations in the next 1-5 years?
  • What operations are critical to the future of the business?
  • Will staffing levels change? If so, how?
  • What skills and abilities will be needed to match these changes?

PlanningIdentify the high-potential employee’s (HPE’s) and their respective developmental needs.

  • Be sure to analyze all levels in your organization, not just management.
  • Avoid the “like me approach”the industry is changing, the next set of leaders will most likely look, act, react, etc. very differently than you.
  • Be certain the HPE fits, and will embrace and promote, the organizations culture as a leader.
  • Ask others in management to have regular conversations with employees about their career goals and identify a successor for their own position.

Develop the HPE’s.

  • Leadership evaluations by third parties can provide valuable insight to strengths and development areas.
  • Create a development plan and provide training and/or special assignments around development areas. Be sure to include:
    • Finance training to help improve the HPE’s business acumen.
    • Detailed information on the organization’s strategy, goals, business, etc. so the HPE’s know where to focus and make the most substantial impact.
  • Create a mentor program to connect HPE’s with others either in, or outside, of your business to build new knowledge in all areas of the business/industry.
  • Get the HPE’s involved in the RSPA, on a Board, or in the community (you always take away as much, if not more, than you put in).
  • Measure and monitor progress and adjust as needed.

A well-developed and current succession plan is important to avoid vacancies in key positions and assures the stability and perpetuation of business operations. Succession planning is a motivator for your employees, they will recognize that your management looks toward the future with optimism and invests in employee development and growth.

Chelsey Paulson is ŽHuman Resources Manager at North Country Business Products

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