A few years ago, a small organization had a big dilemma. Their Chief Information Officer (CIO) left the company for a new position at a startup without giving any notice. This left the organization at risk. The CIO had worked there for eight years, had built his department from the ground up, and had hand-picked every employee. His hands-on leadership approach created a meaningful, trusting culture that empowered his team to do great work. So his sudden departure left the department–and the company–in a bit of a panic.

It’s disturbing when any competent employee leaves a company, but when a department head leaves, it can wreak havoc. Although the management team worked tirelessly to address potential issues, they didn’t possess the proper leadership skills to keep the department working together cohesively. What this company desperately needed was a succession plan.

Succession planning is a crucial process that every organization should invest time, money and effort into, but only eight percent of companies actually do. Proper succession planning allows an organization to identify potential internal employees and position them for leadership positions within the organization. This helps alleviate any negative impact to business during a transition and ensures continuity of leadership.

If you are new to succession planning or are just beginning to explore the idea of implementing a plan, I urge you to consider three main things.

1: First, work to better understand your company’s needs and identify where you want your organization to be in the future. Understanding the purpose of a succession plan and what it specifically means for your company will lead to a more careful and thorough program that will help you manage change in crucial times.

2: Identify key positions within your organization and establish (or update) your organizational chart. You want to understand who does what and how these key roles impact the organization and each department. Analyze the positives, negatives, and survivability of your company in times of potential turnover.

3: Identify key competencies, skills, and success factors that are critical to these positions. This knowledge will allow you to develop a recruitment strategy to attract the necessary talent and it will help you design a systematic training program for existing employees.

Succession planning is crucial to the longevity and success of any company. Through proper understanding and planning, your organization will reap the benefits of a strong succession program for years to come. Learn more about succession planning here.