Blog, Human Resources

Succession Planning in Small Organizations

When done right, succession planning is the seamless process of replacing a top executive when they decide to leave an organization. However, as business trends change, so does the system. The practice is now more inclusive and has a wider scope. Aside from exit strategies, succession planning should take into account both the short-term and long-term stability and sustainability of a company’s human resources, as well as the individual development of its employees.

Businesses, regardless of size, legal structure, nature, or industry, are always faced with uncertainties – employees and executives leave. They may reach retirement age, become incapacitated, or receive a better position within or outside the company. No matter the reason, the institution must always be ready to fill that void with the right person to ensure continuity of leadership and operations.

There is no prescribed formula in succession planning, but here are a few points to consider:

Develop and maintain an updated demographic profile of the workforce. This should identify each member’s role, determine key position(s) that are critical in the short- and long-term operations, and recognize personnel with the potential and eligibility to replace or assume other posts. This data also helps in conducting an analysis of the organization’s current collective expertise and determining what it needs in the future.

Staff development as part of succession planning requires organizations to provide further training to ensure that employees possess the needed knowledge. Equally important is ensuring that the appropriate soft skills associated with the job (decision-making, leadership, critical thinking, communication, etc.) are developed among the team. Create programs and coach or mentor employees while helping them acclimate to the situation. This phase likewise involves increasing the scope of their responsibilities and, most importantly, engaging people to participate in the action plan.

Conduct a regular review to re-assess whether targets are achieved. If there are changes in goals and/or job requirements, be proactive and make the necessary adjustments. Creating a plan isn’t enough; it must be updated periodically to reflect the shifting demands of the business and the market.

Select individuals based on competency, not personality. Hiring internally is almost always preferable to going outside the organization, but the pros and cons must be carefully considered. Regardless of what management ultimately decides, that decision must be communicated to all stakeholders to avoid confusion or resentment.

The success of an enterprise depends on its qualifications, knowledge, and experience, which are all tied to its people. The moment a staff member walks out, that asset is taken with them. If you’re prepared for any eventuality, you can avoid scrambling and making hasty or uninformed decisions, which will cost valuable time and money when the organization can least afford it. Make sure to find the individual who can and will support and complement the company’s vision, values, and objectives.

Succession planning is not a one-time event, but rather a continuous process – it evolves with your industry and experience. It’s never too early to start one, so if you don’t have a succession plan, there’s no time like the present to create one.


– Zaida Ricafrente