With a succession process, you’re better prepared for future growth

Have you ever noticed how hard it is for leaders to plan for when you or a team member leaves the organization? What the military does well should be your guide.

The military consistently develops officers and enlisted personnel to move up to the next level. The goal is succession at every level without missing a beat.

In the prisoner of war camps in Vietnam, having clarity about who assumed command — the next senior person — was a huge plus for our success and morale. Without intentionally trained officers, the outcome of our POW experience could have been very different — increased confusion, mixed messages, lack of unity and greater loss of life.

If you believe in the mission of your work and want it to continue, you must proactively plan for turnover and succession at all levels:

  • Top leaders. Succession planning at the highest level to find leaders who can protect the vision and move it forward. A bad hire is always expensive. Costs at the executive level are tangible and intangible: loss of revenue, momentum or direction needed to stay competitive in a rapidly changing environment.
  • Mid-level managers. Proactive companies have a training pipeline for managers, especially those deemed to be high potentials.
  • Front-line supervisors. Leadership always makes a difference, regardless of the level. These leaders are most involved in getting the job done (results) and taking care of people (relationships).

With good succession planning in place, you’re much better prepared to promote internally. You’re hiring a known entity and already understand the individual’s talents, character, courage and commitment; and the person already understands your organizational culture, values and policies. Other advantages:

  • Saving on outside recruiting costs. The average cost of finding and hiring someone from outside the company is 1.7 times more than an internal hire ($8,676 vs. $15,008), reports the Saratoga Institute.
  • Better morale and retention. It shows you value your people inside the organization.
  • Quicker on-boarding and ramp-up. Internal hires know the culture and processes of the organization.
  • Great chances of long-term success. Statistically, experts say that 40 to 60 percent of external hires aren’t successful compared with only 25 percent of internal hires.

But there are situations that might favor hiring outside:

  • Lack of qualified and experienced candidates.
  • Need for new energy and innovation in a new project/direction.
  • Need for a turnaround person in an area that’s stalled out or dysfunctional.

Regardless of your succession planning process, one thing is clear — it begins with the hiring process. Getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats will be critical to success (per Jim Collins), and we should begin with the end in mind (per Stephen Covey). Make succession planning a priority for your organization’s future.