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Mind The Gap: How To Build A Winning Team With Succession Planning

Whether you know it’s coming or not, receiving a resignation letter is never pleasant.

Speaking from experience, I think it can feel worse still when you have a small team. Losing one person in a team of five means losing 20% of your workforce.  If you’re the business owner, in the majority of situations that extra 20% of work falls back on you. It can really feel like you’re taking a step backwards.

The good news is, there’s a very effective step you can take to protect your business (and your sanity!): Succession planning.


Succession planning is simply a structured plan to ensure that you have the right people, with the right skills, doing the right things at the right time.

It’s good risk management in that it gives you a solid understanding of your potential areas of ‘people and role’ related risk to your business.

An effective succession plan will help you build a ‘talent pipeline’, and involves 3 simple steps:

  • Forecasting
  • Gap analysis
  • Developing talent


The first step in succession planning is identifying business-critical roles for now and for the future, and the skills and knowledge needed for each of these roles.

Questions to consider:

  • Which are the key positions that expose us to the most risk if they’re not performed?
  • What are the critical knowledge/skills we must have now?
  • What are the critical knowledge/skills we must have in one year, three years, five years, etc.?


Once you’ve built a forecast, you can start to identify the skills and knowledge gaps in your current team.  From there, you can determine the actual requirements for your future team.

This way, when you’re recruiting or promoting, you can put the right people in the right places, rather than just flying blind.

Questions to consider:

  • What critical skills/knowledge does our team have right now?
  • What skills will we need in three years, five years, etc.?
  • Where and what are the gaps?


Now you’ll need to combine your gap analysis with information gleaned from your performance appraisal process to assess your current team’s capability. Your aim is to identify current and emerging star performers, and understand what investment you’ll need to make to develop these people for your critical roles. 

Training is often seen as the silver bullet in terms of developing talent, but if there’s inadequate opportunity to use the skills and knowledge delivered in a training course, it’s likely to be ineffective.

Try these alternative methods instead of traditional training:

  • Participation in projects
  • Involvement with cross-functional teams
  • Job shadowing
  • Opportunities to move across teams/business units on secondment or longer term
  • Assigning a mentor or coach from the senior management team
  • Agreeing stretch targets

 Questions to consider:

  • Is there any key talent in the business which we must nurture and retain?
  • How are we recognising and rewarding our star performers?
  • Do our star performers know what they need to be doing to be considered for their next career move?
  • What are we doing to ensure that we address performance issues promptly?

It may seem like quite a bit of effort, but succession planning will help you establish a pre-qualified pool of high-performing people with business-critical skills, who are ready to step up when the next challenge arises.  It will also allow you to become very clear about the skills and experience that you need to bring into your team from the outside.

As they say, ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’.  This is never more true than when it comes to the most important element of your business: Your people.

About the author

Angela Cameron - CA, CPA

Executive Director

A chartered accountant by qualification, she is a recruitment leader by nature.

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