Insight Blog

How to Begin Succession Planning

How to Begin Succession Planning In January 2022, three members of the Helbling team presented a live Lunch and Learn webinar to more than 100 ERAPPA (Eastern Region of APPA) members. Here are some key takeaways from the hour-long session titled, “Five Ways to Succeed in Succession Planning.” 

As of the third quarter of 2021, 50.3% of U.S. adults 55 and older said they were out of the labor force due to retirement. Instead of waiting for a retirement announcement or resignation, begin thinking now about an understudy for each leadership role. 

Knowing where to begin can be daunting. Try dividing your efforts into key steps. This first blog post in a two-part series covers how to begin succession planning. The second post covers looking for talent and supporting the new leader once they have been identified.

1.  Set simple goals for planning:
It can be helpful to clarify the objective by defining the challenge. What is Succession Planning? 
“Succession planning,” sometimes called “replacement planning,” is a strategic process for determining potential new leaders who can move into leadership roles when the roles become vacant. It involves identification and development.

It is important to have a plan but not overthink nor overcomplicate the process. In considering what success looks like for your department, consider the Three Ts:
  • Timing – By when would you like to identify the new leader? Work backwards from that date to set milestones.
  • Training – What training or assistance can the departing leader provide to develop the new leader? What management training can the new leader attend?
  • Team Buy In – How can you ensure that the current department members support the new leader?
2.  Follow a department checklist for necessary items:
  • Updated organizational chart
  • Position description for leader and direct reports
    • Job responsibilities defined
    • Daily / weekly / monthly / quarterly / annual priorities specified
  • Shared repository of diagrams, blueprints, and other reference information (preferably electronic)
  • Contact information shared in a central location
  • Templates for reports and work orders
3.  Assess talent:
  • Are there any other vacancies to fill?
  • Are there any skills missing that would be nice to have on staff?
  • How are people interacting within the department?
  • Are there any communication challenges to address (inside or outside the department and with those outside the institution, such as partner-vendors?)
  • What is the turnaround time on work orders?
  • Can any efforts be subcontracted —OR—Can any subcontracted efforts come in house?
  • Is there diversity among your team? Racial diversity is important but also diversity of gender, age, education, experience, and employment background can round out a team.
4.  Determine key qualifications for the role:
  • Set the minimum education requirements and technical skills up front so that candidates are evaluated fairly.
  • Prioritize emotional intelligence, leadership abilities, integrity, trustworthiness.
5.  Make it a team effort:
Convene the department.
  • Form a planning and development committee.
  • Name the current leader as the committee chair.
  • Ask for department volunteers who want to serve on the committee. Sometimes we are surprised by who shares insight when given an opportunity.
Communicate with all team members.
  • Continually update those not on the committee nor being considered for the leadership role.
  • They want to know how they fit into the equation.
  • Consider cross training on priority tasks at various levels. This eases potential burdens on a current or future leader and on other team members.
If a pending retirement or another departure has caused you to think about the challenges of replacing a facilities leader, please contact us to connect with a Helbling search consultant.