How to do Succession Planning

It may seem impossible to turn a business team around in three months, but you can set this goal and achieve it with the right tools and planning. Think of this behind-the-scenes work as the fuel to keep your business on track and a good way to move ahead of your competitors. If you feel your team is sluggish and lacks motivation, then it is time to turn things around with focused determination, fresh perspectives and competent, motivated people working for you.

This process typically is not about jettisoning everyone and starting over. Succession planning is about opening opportunities for other individuals to rise through the ranks and for other individuals to come into the workplace to offer a new insight and additional talent. There should be opportunities for existing workers to step up their game or explore other work options where they can thrive. What could result is a dynamic office atmosphere with new energy to take you out of current patterns of stagnation and into a new era of progress in the workplace.

The First 30 Days

When introducing strategic workforce adjustments in a business, it can be best to take each segment in small chunks so that the goals for improvement feel easier. One simple strategy is to take succession planning in three, 30-day periods. The first phase is the organizational part of making real changes. Spend time taking a close look at who is a true team player in your office and who is merely going through the motions. If you do not have performance evaluations in place or have put them on hold, begin the process to get a new baseline for measuring progress with each person on staff. Evaluations are essential for gauging talents and skills.

Detailed evaluations with an eye toward across-the-board improvements can be difficult, particularly if people have been in their positions for a long time with a legacy of established work habits. Ultimately, a change of this magnitude can help your business and could give people a new lease on their own lives to find work that they truly enjoy. Think of these evaluations as a way to eliminate complacency, which can be a detrimental contagion at work when you want to be competitive.

Be clear in your team evaluation so that no one is surprised with a sudden dismissal. It can help to talk to management peers in your industry to see how they handle evaluations and what types work best for your line of work. Once these reviews are in place, then those who want to shine can do so and may surprise you with fresh ideas. Those uncomfortable with the process can decide to either change or move on, and this level of evaluation may help convince some individuals that it is in their best interest to find other work. The bottom line is that all workers receive a chance to improve or demonstrate their talents. As these discoveries emerge, you then can begin to make a list of positions that you may need to fill or eliminate in the coming months. The process also may reveal the previously undiscovered superstars in your office.

The Second 30 Days

Once you have evaluations and a clear picture of the team players critical to keep in the office, you can start to look at next steps and see what jobs may be obsolete or where to create new opportunities. The second phase of this project goes from internal information gathering to external interviews.

Obtaining a team of skilled professionals may seem like a formidable task, but this is when social media can be used to your advantage. LinkedIn has become an industry leader as a recruiting tool. After posting job openings or launching recruiting efforts, you can start to build a stable of candidates for possible interviews through LinkedIn and begin an initial review process with background checks. If you are limited on travel budgets, take advantage of FaceTime, Skype or even Google Hangouts to hold face-to-face interviews online at your convenience and regardless of a candidate’s location.

Job career fairs also are valuable for local recruiting efforts, particularly if you are in a vibrant urban center surrounded by universities that can offer a rich talent pool. These fairs also are a good place to advertise what your business does and to promote your work in the community. You might not meet a candidate you want for current openings, but you could be planting the seeds for a future candidate with potential.

As you work to improve your potential employee pool, you also can begin to work out contingency plans for your current workers. Now is the time to figure out who deserves promotion at the end of the office overhaul process. These workers may need training or other advanced knowledge to meet their next position. You can devise career development plans so that they can be ready for their next challenge, such as on-the-job training or continuing education outside the office. Make careful note of any extra expenses for this phase. You may decide to take advantage of online webinars provided by universities or industry consultants to serve your needs just as well as more expensive off-site conferences.

At the same time, you can work with those who may need extra assistance for personal improvement in their current positions at your office and offer suggestions on positive change. There also could be certain jobs that go away in restructuring. You will need to make contingency plans for new workflows before downsizing actually occurs. You could bring in time management counselors or other expert industry consultants to see how efficiency improvements can minimize the effect of losing these positions. You also may want to bring in counselors and job placement experts who can help individuals transition into new careers and set them on a successful path after a layoff.

The Last 30 Days

At this point, you are closing in on your business transition and succession plans. You have three groups of workers to manage at this point: those staying and moving up, those transitioning out and those coming in for new positions. Do not underestimate the level of upheaval from each of these elements. The challenge is to focus on the future while properly managing the current changes so that no one facet dominates the others.

This is the time for interviews to begin to see whether job realities match expectations and skills of everyone involved. Do not miss the chance to include your existing pool of talent when looking for the next generation of leaders in your business. It can be best to open interviews to current employees as well as outside candidates and to weigh the benefits of each one individually. While outside candidates may have exciting ideas, consider that candidates among current employees have valuable knowledge of how the business works, and this level of expertise can save time in training and allow them to hit the ground running in an advanced position in your business.

Proper management of employees at risk is critical at all times. There may be individuals who will need to leave if performance continues on a sub-par level. If reviews show a consistent pattern of missed goals and personal improvement plans do not work, then terminations may need to occur, but it should be understood by all that this is an option of last resort. Know the laws and regulations of this part of a transition and make sure to follow all proper procedures and that there is documentation of all performance issues and instances of job counseling.

As the succession planning process continues to unfold, bringing new people in can help stabilize the existing workplace. If full-time new hires are not possible at this time, consider offering internships to individuals who may want to learn more about your specific industry. These types of jobs can offer valuable support and assistance because it introduces younger workers to career opportunities. These internships may turn into full-time positions if certain individual talents stand out.

Internships also are a good way to tie this whole process together and keep new talent in circulation with your business. Once your initial 90-day process has come to fruition and your new office team is in place working together, you can continue recruiting efforts. Maintain contacts on social media as well as through personal interviews and continued promotion of your own business at networking events and job fairs. In this manner, you will always have a ready supply of résumés to review.

Set a calendar of dates and see what works best for each segment of succession planning at your office with a close eye on work and making all the transitions seamless. There are no guarantees for eliminating all possible drama, but you can minimize the stress from each phase through planning. As people see that improvements lead to a more efficient and successful workplace, continued training and promotions should bring comfort to individuals looking to advance.