4. Succession planning

Succession planning is the identification of those critical job roles that may arise due to retirement, attrition, business growth, innovation or change, and the strategic consideration of where and how internal candidates might fill those roles.

Having a succession plan in place can help you identify your future leaders and begin the necessary development processes that will increase their potential and performance outcomes. This in turn will positively impact on the engagement levels among all staff. It should preserve organisational memory and enable your organisation to stay viable.

Development of a succession plan should start with the question ‘what is motivating you to develop this plan?’. Are key sections of your workforce scheduled to retire in the near future? Could your staff be attracted to work elsewhere in the system? Or are there new innovations or business opportunities in your strategic plan that will need new positions to be created? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you to develop a succession plan that is aligned with your organisation’s vision, values and objectives for the future and not simply drive a like-for-like recruitment process.

When you develop your succession plan, it is vital that you measure factors that may contribute to or hinder its success; for example, are there any changes or trends that are occurring in your part of the health service, the health system or the wider marketplace? Within your organisation itself, what changes might occur – planned or unplanned – in terms of age, culture, diversity and so on, and what needs will you be required to meet to ensure you continue to have an agile workforce?

Succession planning can be seen as developing a safety net for your organisation, protecting it from risks that may result from gaps in critical leadership skills and vacancies in the future. It does not target individuals – rather it is about developing capability and marketability to ensure you have a suitable pool of potential applicants as and when vacancies arise. It is a way of having the right people with the right skills in the right place when you need them.

Question to consider

  • What are you doing to ensure the sustainability of your leadership?
  • How do you keep engaged with the talented staff in your organisation?
  • Does your workforce planning take account of changes in the wider system?

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