Succession Planning and Star Trek

If you weren’t thinking about it before, you are probably now planning for the future of your business. Many organisations ignore the issue of succession planning until it becomes an immediate problem, because they worry that it will be too stressful and may have a negative impact on staff. Some may view succession planning as planning for someone to fail or planning for someone to leave but the other way to look at it is that succession planning is planning for the growth of your business, planning to empower and motivate your staff, or planning to find out what your existing staff really want.

Whether you are a small family run business or a huge international corporation, succession planning could be the key to your staff’s happiness and business success.

It is important not to avoid difficult conversations about succession planning and career development. You may be surprised and encouraged by the responses you get. Your colleagues will respect you for creating a safe, non-judgmental space where they can talk about how they would like their careers to develop…or not.

The best piece of advice I have been given in my career is not to assume that everyone thinks like you. It is important not to make assumptions and ask everyone, regularly what they would like their future to look like. It might be that they want to stay with you for the next 20 years, work their way up, and join the Board, but they might also see themselves with you for a few years, gaining experience and then leave to start their own venture. Both are equally valid responses, and if you can create an environment where colleagues can be honest without fear of losing value and importance then you will have a good understanding of what you need to do to prepare for the future.

To use a Star Trek term, everyone needs a Number One. In fact, I would recommend having multiple Number Ones. Number Ones are those who you can rely on to steer the ship when you need to fight off the Borg. For Number One to be effective you must invest in their learning and development and empower them to make decisions before it is their time to be promoted to Captain.

Succession planning can be a positive experience for your rising talent as well as your experienced colleagues. Existing talent can pass their skills and expertise to new talent through a mentoring programme. Depending on the timescales you are working with this could be bite-sized training sessions over time or job shadowing over a shorter period. Experience is invaluable and should not go to waste, sharing best practice of experienced members of staff early with a new starter will help them to succeed much quicker.

From Star Trek to Next Generation…creating a multi-generational workplace not only develops new talent but also upskills existing workings. A reverse mentoring approach could see colleagues of older generations developing social media and technology skills.

Above all else be flexible in your approach, things change, people change and so will your succession planning. Nothing is set in stone but if you have a culture where succession planning is discussed regularly and honestly you will be able to adapt and respond effectively.

Now…Make it so!


Charlotte Black

Group Sales Director

Key Training Limited