A Guide to Creating a Succession Planning Template
How critical is a succession planning template? Extremely, for organizations with key leaders close to retirement age. Or those with especially skilled leadership positions difficult to fill. It’s also vital for organizations who have not been mentoring a pool of High-Potential Employees (HiPos).
It’s essential to the health of the organization to have a successful succession plan in place. Is your organization missing a backup plan to fill a key senior leadership position when a sudden departure occurs? Is there no emergency succession plan? Please read on.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” - Benjamin Franklin
What is the Business Succession Planning Process?
The business succession planning process identifies and develops new leaders. These key individuals can replace those who retire or leave leadership positions crucial to the organization’ s operations.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” - Abraham Lincoln
Why the Need to Address Succession Planning?
Having a succession plan in place means a more stable future for the organization. It is critical to protecting the organization’s growth and market share. And there are many more reasons why organizations need a succession plan:
- Provides the opportunity to expand the leadership team with diverse talent
- Keeps the organization moving forward when transitioning from one leader to the next, ensuring a smooth transition
- Aligns new leaders to be in sync with other leaders on goals, future growth, and ways to prepare for change.
- Saves recruitment costs by promoting HiPos from within the organization.
- Promises a higher success rate by promoting internal employees who have a strong understanding of the company culture and have proven their loyalty rather than recruiting new hires.
Actionable Steps to Create a Succession Planning Template
As a starting point, here’s the seven-step succession action plan template. You can download the worksheet and start planning.
Step 1: Create an Internal Communication Plan Focused on Diversity
An internal communication plan focused on diversity will foster diversity in future leadership teams and throughout the organization. By listening without judgement, employees actively listen and genuinely seek to understand new perspectives. This all-inclusive thinking will have a ripple effect. Future leaders will be inspired to carry on the DEI culture.
There are many ways to roll out a communication plan focused on diversity. A good first step is a series of roundtable brainstorming sessions. The sessions must include diverse individuals from different areas of the organization. This type of collaboration will not only build a cohesive team but empower the employees to speak up as they realize they are psychologically safe. Here are some additional ways to embed diversity into your internal communications:
- Make DEI policies a necessity – shows leadership’s commitment to the mission of inclusion
- Update job descriptions with more inclusive language
- Tailor job postings to attract diverse qualified candidates
- Share weekly social media posts and newsletter articles around DEI – demonstrates leadership’s unwavering support
- Provide continuous learning by using the organization’s internal communication channels – enforces leadership’s investment in time and money for ongoing DEI employee education
- Download HSI's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Checklist – helps measure and assess each area in the organization
The internal communication plan will ensure a diverse leadership team. As it creates actionable short- and long-term goals based on where the organization is now and where it will be in the future.
Step 2: Create a Mentorship Program Template
A mentorship program helps develop future leaders. It also brings together employees with diverse backgrounds and levels of experience. This will create better relationships and more cohesive teams.
Mentors build leadership skills and other necessary skills, such as active listening and conflict resolution, for advancement. The mentor/mentee relationship fosters engagement, builds motivation, and expands career options for the mentee. A mentorship program also helps to retain HiPos and high performers. Read HSI’s Mentorship Program Template: A Guide to Creating a Mentoring Program to learn more.
Step 3: Have a Leadership Training Program in Place
Without proper leadership and soft skills training, new leaders will lack the knowledge they’ll need to successfully lead the organization. Research shows ongoing leadership development leads to personal growth and boosts the happiness, meaning, and vitality of the employees’ experience. This in turn drives performance and retention.
It’s critical for the training to align with the organization’s competency model for promotions and growth. The ongoing training program must be powerful enough for HiPos to meet their goals and be well-positioned for the next opportunity. Leadership development helps strengthen the internal talent pool and increase the retention of top talent.
Step 4: Draft a HiPo Policy
Organizations need a HiPo policy to better identify, develop, and retain future leaders. This comprehensive document will be unique to each organization. Be sure it’s clear and consistent throughout. Here are a few best practices to follow:
- Determine how to find growth opportunities
- Identify hard-to-fill key roles that are available
- Know what key leadership roles will be open within the next 5-10 years
- Collaborate with department leaders to gain perspective on changing business needs
After identifying these critical roles, list the key positions, timeframes, and responsibilities of each position. Then, determine the qualifications, aspirations, and engagement an employee must have to be successful. Examples of qualifications include strategic thinking, drive, commitment to the organization, competency, creative problem solving, and self-management. Also include any unique needs specific to the organization. Document detailed and well-defined rules around a HiPo’s persona.
The HiPo policy should also address:
- Ensuring your leadership team includes cognitive diversity and brings people of varied cultures, roles, and lived experiences to the table to foster diversity and inclusion.
- Creating space for marginalized groups to have access to succession planning and promotion pipelines.
- Developing a plan to create a mentorship program and build leadership and soft skills training into the learning program.
The HiPo policy should stress that corporate board members, HR, leaders, and management take ownership of a HiPo’s career progression. Their role is to find and create new opportunities for the HiPos. Achieve this by:
- Creating commitment milestones for both leadership and HiPos to reach the end goal
- Outlining tactics to keep HiPos engaged: rewards, experiences, promotions
- Regularly assessing HiPos’ career aspirations as they may change over time
It is imperative that the policy is measurable. It must be fair and take favoritism out of the process. Document all project contributions. Ask other leaders and managers their opinions and insights if the HiPos’ contributions are difficult to measure.
Like all policies, continually refine the HiPo policy based upon feedback and new experiences. The main objectives are to keep in step with the organization’s goals and retain the HiPos.
Step 5: Identify HiPos
Once the HiPo policy is finalized, it’s time to identify the potential candidates within the organization’s talent pool. The goal is to determine the likelihood of someone becoming a leader in the organization.
First, identify key individuals who have the high potential, ability, and aspiration to hold leadership positions. Some organizations hire a consultant to help facilitate this process. Be sure the consultant is in alignment with the organization’s diversity goals.
HR and leadership can also evaluate employees by using performance data. Achieve this by simply creating an employee information form template. This form would include education, experience, qualifications, aspirations, and performance reviews. The form will also document leaders’ feedback. The form allows HR and leaders to be on the same page on how to evaluate employees.
Next, compare a potential HiPos’ skills against the HiPo policy’s leadership skills and qualifications. A few questions to ponder:
- Who is effective in communicating between departments?
- Who is always at the center of projects and adds real value?
- Who is always wanting to learn something new?
It can be challenging to identify HiPos. High performers have overlapping qualities but are not true HiPos by definition. High performers constantly exceed expectations and take pride in their work. However, they may not have the aspiration to be a leader. HiPos are strategic thinkers and are successful at making big-picture decisions. These potential leaders have the knack to be team builders and mentors. They also aspire to be a top leader in an organization.
Remember to look for potential, not necessarily current performance. The right job fit is critical when evaluating HiPos. They may currently be in the wrong position. Look at their strengths. Work closely with these employees and explore the idea that they could be a future leader. Consider ways to help them grow in performance and leadership. Perhaps this may bring out the best in them.
Step 6: Develop HiPos
The next step is to develop and prepare HiPos to become potential successors. This is an intentional and calculated process. HR and leaders have already assessed the skills needed for these most important roles. Remember, these roles will be open in the next 5-10 years. They also understand how the organization and market may change during this timeframe.
Now, the development process begins. HiPos will partake in ongoing mentorship, leadership, and soft skills training programs. Training for a future job opening will allow them to develop skills and experience needed for the specific leadership role. Leaders will create milestones HiPos must meet to prove commitment and capability.
This developmental career path gives HiPos a firm reason to stay with the organization. They feel they have a successful future ahead of them. Encourage leaders to frequently remind HiPos of the big picture and future goal to help them understand the value they bring to the table.
Step 7: Retain HiPos
Organizations make an investment in their HiPos, from mentoring and training to promoting. All of which takes time and money. These efforts do not pay off if the HiPos leave the organization. So, how do organizations retain HiPos?
- Be respectful, honest, and realistic. Transparency is key as business needs and future positions change.
- Never promise anything. Things can happen beyond one’s control.
- Be open and candid about the how and why of advancement decisions.
- Keep them abreast of organizational updates that impact them. For example, someone retiring sooner than expected, changes in timelines, and the next key steps for advancement.
- Continually motivate and engage them. Assign unique, high-visibility initiatives to benefit their career goals. Have them lead meetings, teams, and projects.
- Ask their opinions on processes and areas of improvement. This gives them a say and allows for strategic thinking.
- Give them freedom to manage their own schedule. This allows them to navigate through different situations and discover new interests.
- Provide ongoing mentorship, training, and shadowing.
- Remember the DEI promise in HiPo policy:
- These initiatives should always be on company time. It’s critical not to eliminate employees who may not be available outside of working hours due to family commitments, etc.
- If additional education is necessary, include tuition reimbursement. Training should be accessible to employees so no one misses an opportunity for advancement.
- Remember the DEI promise in HiPo policy:
- Meet with HiPos each quarter. This is a good idea so they know exactly where they stand.
- Update on employee progress. Discuss their strengths and areas of improvement.
- Explore career goals further. Understand how they want to advance in their career and what their career track looks like.
- Offer career development opportunities. And ask them what experiences they see as most beneficial.
How HSI Can Help?
Want to learn more about effective succession planning? HSI has specific training just for this critical topic:
- Identifying HiPos
- Creating a HiPo Policy
- Retaining and Developing HiPos
- Diversifying Your Leadership Team
- How to Create a Mentoring Program
- The Importance of Succession Planning
HSI also offers soft skills training in areas such as communication, problem solving, and time management. Improve employee interactions with courses on collaboration, conflict management, emotional intelligence, and more. HSI’s communication skills courses include active listening, persuasive communication, nonverbal communication, and writing. HSI’s Business Skills library allows users to curate a training curriculum specific to an organization’s needs.
Please download a PDF of HSI’s succession action plan template and get started today!