Does your business have any succession planning in place? Often, business leadership teams are over 50 and thinking about retirement – or at least reducing their working hours. People who have come through the business together arrive at this point at the same time – meaning that, in some businesses, a significant number of senior leaders are thinking about leaving.

If there is no succession planning in place, this can have an incredibly detrimental effect on the business. And succession planning is about far more than identifying the next person to take on a particular role. It’s about future-proofing the business in line with your strategic plans, and about communicating your planning to your teams, to help get buy-in and aid retention.

In fact, research by Software Advice found that 90% of workers aged 18-34 said that working in a company with a clear succession plan would improve their levels of engagement.

Where to start?

Your first step is to talk to the people in your business who can help you to put a plan together. This come under your governance requirements as a Board, and you might also want to involve your HR team or consultancy, as they can guide you on the best way to manage the process.

Who to choose?

First, think about whether you want to promote from within. This is often a good idea, because you have people who know the business well, who understand your products, services and clients and who you can start to involve in strategy and planning.

Promoting from within also means you can target any learning or development programmes to help build the skills that your successors will need.

If you are going to look for external candidates, make sure you are clear about the skills and approach you need. It must fit with your existing culture so that you can transition well from one leader to another. Leave plenty of time to find the right person, and involve your teams in the process – you may gain valuable insights from them.

Whichever route you go down, make sure you are transparent about your decisions and choices, so that your team can see you have been thoughtful and fair.

Consider communication

The way you tell your people, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders about your succession plan will depend on the timescale you’re working to, and what you feel is best for the business. Again, this is where your HR support can help. They will understand the company and its needs, and be able to put together a clear plan.

Don’t plan it and park it

It can be great to feel you’ve ticked the ‘succession planning’ box, but you must keep it under review. Things change both inside and outside your business, and so there may be times when your succession plan needs updating or revising. Make time to regularly review your plan to make sure it’s still workable.