What Is Succession Planning?

Jonny Gardner

Succession planning is a tool businesses can use to close the engineering skills gap.

Jump to:

The process of Succession Planning

Learn why Succession Planning is important

When you should use Succession Planning

When should businesses start succession planning?  

Succession planning should start before you need it! 

Begin as soon as possible, whether that be the launch of a business or the minute someone is hired. When the succession planning strategy has been created, it needs to be updated. It is never a one-time event, it should be updated each year in relation to any relevant changes that occur.  

 Once you have that plan, you should always be using it. Succession planning changes the way you think of your team and their career paths. Always be on the lookout for team members who could one-day be a head of the team or a manager. 

If you’re finding your organisation is losing a lot of knowledge from retiring engineers, try succession planning. Use our guide to help you implement a plan that’ll tackle your skills gap.  

What Is Succession Planning?

Succession planning is the process of identifying the skillsets in a team and developing action plans to retain these skillsets within the business. These skillsets are typically held by senior and experienced engineers, who have a wealth of theoretical and practical knowledge. So, the action plans will pass down this knowledge to the rest of the team.

The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board have estimated that by 2026, more than 91,000 engineers will be close to retiring or will have retired. That’s almost 20% of the workforce! Already, day in and day out I hear engineering teams are losing out on their skillsets from retiring engineers. The skills gap is now larger than ever before and the engineers left behind are struggling and stuck in this cycle.

By succession planning, you can reduce this problem now and prevent it recurring in the future. By encouraging engineers to pass on their knowledge and skills to someone else in the team, everyone benefits by easing the shift in responsibilities that are brought on by someone leaving.

In the video below, I sum up succession planning from an engineering point of view.

I share my thoughts on Succession Planning

What is the Succession Planning Process?

The process looks like this: 

  1. Identify which areas are key to the teams’ operational effectiveness  
  1. Pick out your teams’ skillsets and knowledge where gaps occur 
  1. Note which engineers are ready to advance and which are lacking in skills/knowledge 
  1. Come up with a plan of action. How are you going to implement a succession plan? 
  1. Incorporate training and development that will close the skills gap (use engineers who are ready to advance – make the most of the tools you have to hand) 
  1. Keep updating your strategy. Look at the success of your plan and update it where it needs repairing to keep your skills gap non-existent. 

In the video below, I explain when to start the succession planning process and how you can start it.

Why is succession planning important?  

You can’t prevent people from leaving, in some cases. However, you can prevent skills leaving your business. How? 

Well, imagine a funnel. This funnel helps direct all the skills, experience and knowledge through the business. You need engineers’ skillsets to move down this funnel in order to excel in their role. The drivers of this movement are your team and training opportunities. If you lose a member, you then create a hole in this funnel. These holes mean that skillsets are lost, and engineers take longer to move through. Ideally, your whole team will have their skillsets at the end of the funnel.

Succession planning is analysing this funnel and preventing holes from appearing.

Longevity of the business 

Succession planning is important for the longevity of the business – as it strengthens the overall capability of your organisation. By identifying the efficiencies you have, you can take measures that’ll stop you losing them. 

Avoid a Crisis 

Furthermore, by finding the culprit and pinpointing where you can close the skills gap sooner rather than later, will give your employees time to gain skills to fill that gap and potentially replace a position that has opened.  

Training and Development  

Doing this will also create a structure for training and development. If you lay out clear progression routes from the outset, your team will know they have a chance of gaining a leadership role at some point in the future. 

Lower the Impact of Leadership Change 

Additionally, it’ll also lower the impact of leadership change. If you know an engineer is retiring, you can prepare other team members to potentially step in to take up the position. Think about creating a mentorship programme. Where engineers looking to upskill, or someone new is brought into the business to shadow the role. By shadowing the soon-to-be-retired manager, they’ll learn the ins and outs before they leave. Which’ll then allow for a gradual implementation of a new leader or senior figure into the team.

Shadowing programmes are particularly useful for new hires, as it allows the team to get to know and build up a rapport with the new leader before they take over. On the other hand, by promoting internally, it’s someone who knows the processes and the team already have a relationship with. 

Maintain Trust with Stakeholders/Shareholders.  

You can not only maintain, but improve trust with stakeholders and shareholders. If you have a clearly defined succession plan, that demonstrates you are proactively managing staff and planning for the future, it looks good for the organisation.

In Summary

Succession planning is an important tool that all organisations should keep in their toolbox. Without it, the already dwindling skills that keep businesses running will be lost. So, businesses need to be proactive and start this process now, before engineers are set to retire.

As an engineering recruitment agency, we help businesses fill in the gaps that are identified in their succession plans. Supporting them to recruit multi, elec and mech-biased engineers at all levels. On top of this, we’ve found that having succession strategies in place can also help organisations to develop and enhance their employer brand. As they’re able to effectively communicate the progression and training route within the team – which is important to the modern engineer. Support with your employer brand and recruitment marketing is another service that we offer in our Recruitment Process Outsourcing hiring model.