4 succession planning mistakes to avoid

4 succession planning mistakes to avoid

Succession planning requires calls for careful organisation on the part of executive management.

When professionals in top positions leave the company, managers want assurances that the individuals chosen to fill those roles will slot into their position with a relatively seamless transition.

However, there are certain succession planning mistakes that can prevent firms from achieving these goals.


1. Failing to think outside of the box

Managers shouldn’t limit their succession planning strategies to those individuals directly below a certain position. While it may make sense to transition the “heir apparent” into the role, don’t limit your options.

2. Selecting the wrong successor

No firm wants to put effort into succession planning only to find out too late the person just isn’t the right fit for the role. This mistake goes hand-in-hand with relying too heavily on employees who are next in line. 

Job descriptions are bound to change in response to trends or unforeseen business challenges. Executives should keep this in mind when identifying individuals earmarked to step up to top positions in the future. An employee whose skills and experience once closely matched those required for the job may not necessarily be the right fit anymore. 

Sometimes subtle changes can breathe new life into a company, especially when existing processes aren’t working as well as they used to. Employees may also be more motivated when they feel welcome to step up to a wider variety of roles. 

3. Choosing just one successor

Don’t underestimate the need for a long term approach to succession planning. Identifying one individual to groom for a future role may put your company ahead – thinking several steps ahead can be very effective.

You don’t even have to consider each and every one of these individuals for the same position. Instead, this strategy simply creates a pool of high-potential employees who could all step up to a number of top roles if necessary. 

Don't forget the importance of communication. Be sure to let your successors know about the potential transition and offer relevant training opportunities. Viewing the succession planning process as an ongoing discussion will ensure employees are prepared for the transition. 

4. Stopping at the top level

Effective succession planning takes into account all links in the chain. Transitioning an employee to a new role will create a vacancy for his or her original position, and businesses can benefit from expanding the succession planning process to include more than just the top management positions. Focusing on training and developing high potential employees further down the line is crucial not just for filling open roles, but for maintaining a pipeline of strong internal talent.

This article originally appeared as 4 Succession planning mistakes to avoid on the Robert Half Management Resources blog.

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