Succession Planning…from the Farm to the Boardroom

FullSizeRender (1)My dad is retired now from business life but has always been a bi-vocational farmer which means the house has always been filled various agricultural media.  I was visiting my parents recently and came across a copy of and our blog pic was on the cover.  it caught my eye and confirmed that succession planning is important whether you run a farm or are the CEO in a boardroom.

This topic can be an intimating one for many leaders so I’ve come to describe it in a simple-to-understand definition:  Succession Planning is nothing more than creating bench strength in your team or business so you are prepared for the unexpected.

A simple definition…yes, but it takes an intentional plan to achieve it.  So, what about your team or business?  How prepared are you for an unexpected absence from the team.  What if the significant other of one of your employees is relocated (very possible)?  Or what if someone wins the lottery (unlikely, but fun to think about)?  Or, perhaps an employee develops cancer and must be on an extended leave (we hope this never happens)? 

Without a succession plan, your team or business will be compromised if an unexpected absence or departure occurs.  So whether you are new to this concept or have a plan in place, these four tips are some important things to consider and put into action.

Know What Your BIZ NEEDS
Succession Planning is all about readiness for the future.  The big question is: WHAT is your future going look like?  Your business plan sets the foundation for the skill, growth and development you will need to either build internally, hire externally or both.

It’s a PIPELINE not a Cherry Picker
Your goal is to develop individuals across the organization for potential needs as they emerge.  Opportunities abound with this approach because it ensures you have the bench strength to fill a quick project need or role who suddenly leaves the company  Secondly, it ensures you are identifying and developing talent at ALL levels of the organization, not just the most visible or well-liked employees.

Communicate BIG
One of the greatest retention challenges today is hanging on to great talent.  Employees (of all ages) want to work in an environment where they can see a future.  And the only way they know  about that future is from you.  Create a communication strategy that creates excitement across the company about its plans for the future.  Help them see a reason to stay with your company and also one to be excited about.

ASSESS You Current Talent
We could spend a great deal of time on this topic (after all, it’s what we do!).  However, this process is really three-fold.  1) Assess where your talent is today according to their current roles (Performance), and 2) Find out where/what their future goals are (Explore). Then, based on the business needs, 3) create growth plans to help the team grow in skills and experience.  This win/win ensures your team is growing but also getting ready for whatever the future may hold.  This process often flows within your performance management process so it integrates to your natural focus on talent rewards and growth.

There are many aspects of a solid succession plan.  And while there is a lot of talk today about it, I encourage you to not get overwhelmed.  Yes, it is critical to your company’s success; but it is doable with some planning and intentionality.  Like any big undertaking, take one step at a time.  And if you are unsure how to get started, then call us.  We’re happy to help.  After all, if farmers across America are concerned about their future, shouldn’t you be too?

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