Consulting

Succession Planning: Beyond the C-Suite

Jan. 22nd, 2019

It’s that time of year again — a time of resolutions, new beginnings, and looking toward the future.

Whether this year marks your company’s first year in business or your hundredth anniversary, nobody knows exactly what the future holds. That’s all the more reason to prepare for predictable changes, and strengthen your organization against unforeseen challenges.

Preparing for the Future Through Succession Planning

Succession planning does just that — it’s a systematic process by which you’re able to identify key roles within your organization, as well as potential successors to the current incumbents. Simply put, a succession plan provides a road map your company can follow into the future, whether that path is straight and narrow, or full of twists and turns.

We all like to think that key leaders will give ample warning of their intent to retire, train a replacement, and do it all with the same level of drive and goodwill toward the company as the day they took the job. But that is not the reality for most companies. Unforeseen illnesses, new job offers, or any number of circumstances can get in the way of your best-case scenario.

The need for succession planning is something you and others at your company have probably already recognized. 94% of respondents to our recent succession survey told us that they believed succession planning was important. However, when asked about succession processes, 35% admitted that there was no formal process in place for key leadership roles. That discrepancy is disappointing, but unsurprising. Think of this: each year, 10% to 15% of corporations must appoint new CEOs, but only 54% of Boards were grooming a specific successor.

Specialized Talent Is Difficult to Replace

But remember, as with leadership development, succession planning is not solely a tool for the top. Succession planning works best when it takes into account all of your strongest resources — your high-potential talent at all levels.

If you focus only on how to replace your C-Suite leaders, you’ll overlook essential players within your organization. Just think, what would happen if your most experienced data scientist were to announce her retirement tomorrow? Do you have anyone in place who can step into that position, or who can help usher in a replacement? Roles that require specialized training (or are particularly difficult to fill or train) require special attention when it comes to succession, even if their titles lack a “C.”

Whether your organization is just beginning a succession plan process, or you’re reevaluating an existing plan, there’s a good chance you’re thinking about what succession means for your company’s top leaders. This year, resolve to deeper digging when building your succession plan.