Succession Planning: A Process That’s Not Just for Executives Anymore

Succession Planning can be defined as a process for identifying and developing new leaders in your organization, so you have the “right talent” to grow your business. Succession planning, if done correctly, helps increase the availability of experienced and capable employees at all levels in your organization so they are prepared to assume new roles as they become available.

In most organizations today, Succession Planning is taken too narrowly, where it only applies to key roles or the C-Suite; however, Succession Planning should be part of an overall “talent plan”—particularly for those companies in the Middle Market where specific roles further down in the organization’s hierarchy (i.e. technicians, machinists, engineers, sales representatives, marketing assistants, first-line supervisors) can be crucial to the success and stability of a business.

What most companies need is more of an organizational roadmap—backed by the commitment of the leadership team—to develop, mentor and otherwise plan for replacement of key roles at every level in the organization.

As you build your Succession Planning process, you should ask yourself the following questions:

Do you have the right talent you need to fulfill your strategic plan?

As part of your strategic plan, you need to logically know where you are going in the next several years, as well as develop a path to get there.

If your strategic plan includes efforts to transform your company digitally, then it stands to reason that you may need those skills in-house. You should be thinking: “Do I have those skills internally today, and if not, how might I develop someone to obtain the right skills? Alternatively, does it make more sense to recruit someone from outside the organization with the right skills, abilities and experiences that can hit the ground running?”

Is there a right time to implement a Succession Planning Process?

Management should always be cognizant of who the best people are in an organization. Furthermore, management needs to spend time understanding their unique backgrounds, experiences and talents. A leader should be able to identify five to ten people that they are going to learn about over time and observe them in various situations and scenarios.

Why five or ten? If starting from scratch, it is important to begin with a manageable number. As you become more comfortable with those five or ten, you can add more to the mix. The objective is to observe them as much as you can during the year and in different situations to confirm they have the right talent and capabilities for growth within the company.

How can my company get started with a Succession Planning Process if we’’ve never done it before?

The following is a step-by-step approach that HCC Partners has used with its clients to get started with a succession planning process:

  1. At every management meeting, spend some time talking about who in your organization you cannot afford to lose.
  2. Put a list together of key players.
  3. Get to know a little about each of those key players.
  4. After you get to know the key players, have an open discussion as a group. Do those candidates have the potential to move forward in the organization or someday move to a higher level position? What are their gaps?
  5. How am I going to work towards plugging those gaps and developing those individuals?
  6. Finally, be sure to go back and review those people on an annual basis. Have discussions about what you have seen transpire in the last 12 months.

The responsibility for succession planning rests with anyone in a supervisory or leadership role—not just senior management. It is their responsibility to ensure that they understand the key positions and key people that will drive and deliver on the business strategy for the future.

Experiencing challenges with your Succession Planning Process?  Let HCC Partners be your guide. Contact Jim Geier, President and CEO, at 215.244.8110 or