Succession Planning is not the same as Perpetuation Planning. While privately held firms may seek both ownership transfers and leadership succession, both privately held and corporate entities must have an idea of dynamic succession of every key position within their organizations.

Succession Planning is a process, not an objective. It is initialized during the firm’s Strategic Planning process and then progresses on a quarterly basis for the foreseeable future.

In preparation for the Strategic Plan every manager identifies every employee and their potential in a one year, 3 year and 5 year terms of career progression. The best way of doing this is to ask the employee their aspirations in those periods and match their aspirations to the manager’s assessment of skills and potential. The categories that are considered are Sales, Service, Administrative, Financial and Leadership.

Sales career path considers the potential of that employee and the employee’s desire in a production capacity.

Service career paths consider the potential and the employee’s desire in a relationship management capacity.

Administrative careers consider the employee’s potential in process and process management.

Leadership career paths consider the potential of the employee in any discipline and in general management within the firm.

The simple assessment process, itself, is critically important to assure that managers KNOW their employees and their strengths and development areas. It is shocking to find how little many front-line supervisors, managers and agency owners know about the capabilities and aspirations of their employees. The employees fulfill a role and little thought is given to what that employee is capable of accomplishing both from their own perspectives and through the lens of their managers. We often see this only when an employee leaves the firm to assume a more important role in another agency.

But while personal development should be one of the primary responsibilities of every employee’s direct line manager, the firm’s Succession Plan document itself – the consolidated grid of employees and their current short-term, mid-term and long-term potential – must remain confidential to the Leadership Team only. The reason for the confidentiality is that an employee should never be allowed to assume that they are on a specific career track with the agency. That track could change or morph into another as time progresses and as the employee’s development accelerates slows or stops. The Succession Plan must be both a confidential and a fluid document. It is a living tool for succession planning that is updated monthly and quarterly with progress reports and is updated annually if changes in the short-, mid- or long -term potential of an employee evolve.

The organization’s Succession Plan must be and remain a confidential document that is accessible only by the firm’s leadership team. Each manager derives the potential of each employee for the one year, three year and five year terms. During each year, the manager is charged with the responsibility of advancing the employee within his/her current position and in preparation for the next position within the organization for which the employee is targeted. This is done through training, mentoring and education and is monitored monthly and quarterly toward the employee’s PDP (Personal Development Plan).

The next step in the Succession Planning model occurs during the evaluation cycle for each employee. One part of the evaluation of each employee should be the creation, review and alteration (as needed) of the Employee’s PDP. During the evaluation process, the employee and the employee’s manager should discuss the employee’s potential career path and the status of the PDP established at the prior evaluation to determine a) if the employee has completed the scheduled development between the last and current evaluation, b) if the employee or manager feels that an alteration of the employee’s career path direction is warranted, and c) what the continued development of that employee will require between this and the next evaluation period. In many firms, the accomplishment of the development plan becomes a ratable event for both the employee AND for the manager whose role is to provide guidance, motivation and to manage each employee’s development.

For the individual employees, the PDP is a form of career-pathing that will make them more valuable in their current roles. Many firms require performance improvement and personal improvement for all employees and this is an excellent way to formalize a program that grows every employee as they progress in their careers.

Managers find that an active PDP motivates employees and improves performance of current positions as well as defines and solidifies the employees’ view of their future in the firm.

The organization uses the Succession Planning process and the PDP tool to identify future leaders (and owners within privately held firms) and career progression when inevitable turnover occurs. It no longer needs to hire into the middle of its organization, disrupting the firm’s culture until (and unless) the new mid-level participants change to the culture of their new employer. Done properly, the organization will grow from the bottom and use the Succession Planning model to promote loyal and motivated employees from within.

The reality of Planning is that the reality of life dictates that while Plans are needed and valuable, they must be fluid, ready to change at the point of any crisis. They rarely evolve exactly as expected. A living Succession Plan provides a template that can flex and change as needed by the organization. In larger firms multiple employees will be developing simultaneously toward common positions.

The annual planning process is the platform that identifies both firm strengths and depth and areas needing further staffing to assure logical progression without losing organizational strength.