Introduce the Process
STEP ONE: Introduce the Succession Planning Process to the Staff and the Board of Directors
It is important that your Board and staff are included in the succession planning process. You can develop a presentation or PowerPoint to highlight what a succession planning process should include to share with your staff and Board. Literacy Link South Central developed a Succession Planning Overview PowerPoint to introduce Succession Planning as part of their tool kit. For your convenience this PowerPoint template can be modified with information that is relevant to your agency or situation. To access the sample Succession Overview PowerPoint, visit www.llsc.on.ca/node/108.
The first step in the succession planning process is to determine what you already have in place and to identify any existing gaps. After the initial introduction of succession planning to your staff and Board, discuss why succession planning is important to your organization. You might want to make succession planning a standing agenda item for agency staff meetings and you could consider integrating succession planning on the yearly Board agenda.
Agency Succession Planning Needs Assessment
Completing a needs assessment is a great way to begin the succession planning process. This assessment can be completed by the Executive Director and presented to the Board and staff for input and comment, or it can be adapted to be completed by staff and the Board.
As an Executive Director or Manager, the following are some of the questions that you may want to include in your needs assessment:
- How well informed and up-to-speed is my Board on the issues, trends, and challenges facing our agency?
- Do the staff and Board know where corporate records are kept in the office?
- Does the Board Secretary or Chair keep a separate copy of board corporate records such as letters of incorporation and letters patent off-site or on stored on the Internet?
- Do the staff and Board have, or do they know whom to ask, to easily get a list of key stakeholders for crisis/emergency/transition communications?
- How recently have I personally reviewed and updated that list?
- When I think of not being in the office for an extended period of time, what might not get done, stalled, or forgotten? [The longer this list is, the more you need a succession plan!]
- Do I keep a lot of information in my head or in my own private records that has never really been transferred to my agency?
- Are there funders or donors who want to talk to only me?
- Are there other key relationships that only I maintain?
- What would happen to these relationships if I left? Would the agency suffer as a result? What am I going to do to change that?
- Do I maintain a job diary of important information ‘just in case’?
- What am I working on now that the Board or other key staff would need to know about to carry on without me?
- Are all the agency files organized and properly labelled?
- Is there any confidential information [e.g., personnel files] to which only I have access?
- Does a Board member and/or a key staff member have a copy of my keys?
- Are my key contacts in order and easily identified in my files and/or computer address system?
- Who has a listing of all computer passwords, including mine? Does the Board know who that is?
- Is there a list of user IDs and passwords for agency accounts/websites?
- Are all appointments kept in an online calendar or in a place other staff members can access?
- What staff would my agency be “lost” without?
- Is there someone I would appoint as Interim Executive Director in my absence?
- Does the Board know who that staff person is?
- Have I prepared that person to be Interim Executive Director? [In other words, could they provide the answers to all of these questions to the Board and/or staff if the need arises?]
- Do I have a staff person designated as Board liaison in my absence?
- Does my staff know what duties or responsibilities they would assume during an unplanned absence?
- Do the employees maintain a log of important information ‘just in case’?
- If one of the key staff left, would I know where to find his/her key contacts?
- Do I know what issues he/she was working on that would need to be followed up on?
- Who has authority to sign cheques and disburse payroll in my absence?
- Do the people who need to know that, know?
- Am I the sole signing authority on any account? [If so, you should not be! Take care of this now.]
- Are there backups of all computer materials made at least weekly that are kept off-site or stored on the Internet?
- Who keeps this information off-site?
- Would someone else in the office know where to get it off-site or on stored on the Internet if we needed it?
- Am I actively developing leaders from among my staff?
- Is there a policy and procedures/operations manual for my agency?
- Do all employees have access to it?
- Does the Board have access to it/know where it is located?
- Do I have a written succession plan that has been distributed to board officers and key staff that outlines the answers to these questions?
- If my agency experienced a disaster such as a sudden death of a key employee, is there a plan in place that would allow the agency to operate at relatively full capacity within the first twenty-four hours or few days until the key person could be replaced?
- Does my agency have a plan in place that takes into consideration the needs for staffing my organization over the next three to five years based on current information and projected trends?
- If any key staff person in my agency is planning on retiring or leaving within the next one to three years, is there a staff person on board that is ready or preparing to step into that role?
Use this information to determine whether you need to undertake a succession planning process in your agency. By analyzing any gaps you have identified, you can decide which elements of succession planning are the most important for your agency. Document and use the resulting information to develop a plan of action.
In addition to completing a needs assessment, it might be helpful to start job diaries for key positions. Include information such as key contacts, current projects, network affiliations, key resources, best practices and frequently asked questions (FAQ’s).
It would be also be useful to create an organizational calendar with critical dates and deadlines for the next twelve months. Update the calendar monthly to ensure information for an entire twelve-month period is always on hand. Consider using an online calendar that relevant people can access from anywhere.