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Change is inevitable in the workplace. This is especially true at the leadership level. You never know what may happen.

That’s why a business needs a succession plan. Whether your company is large or small, a well-thought out succession plan should identify potential leaders as replacements for key roles and have a strategy in place when change does happen.

Identify Key Positions

You should know which positions are vital to your business operation. Which if left open would affect your day-to day operation and potential growth? Your company’s overall mission and strategic plan should influence every decision you make when it comes to identifying key roles.

Many companies have organization charts that show the branch structure of the workforce as it ladders up to your leader. This can be useful internally as a guide to see who is line to step into a potentially open position, and externally for your employees to see where they fit and what roles they might be promoted to if the opportunity arises.

Find Your Talent

Don’t let change sneak up on you. Are there employees in your company that can step up their game and lead? No matter the size of your business, a good manager should identify good people.

Of course, it starts when you hire. The recruiting process is the first step in getting the right people on board with your company and company’s mission. In the hiring process, think about a potential employee’s fit in your big picture. For example, just because they are hired for an entry-level position, doesn’t mean they aren’t potential leadership material in the years to come.

On the job, employee performance reviews (either quarterly or yearly) are a good start to not only rate your employees’ performance against others, but to get to know who they are and where their interest might lie within your company long-term.

Let Current Leaders Guide

Consult with your leaders on a regular basis and determine what direction the company is heading in. Has the strategy changed? Does it need to be reevaluated? Is the current workforce getting the job done? Every business should look to their current leadership as a resource when it comes to steering the direction of the future.

Also, a mentoring program can get leaders up-close-and personal with potential successors and give them on the job training if change does happen. When current leaders groom successors, it’s a win-win situation for leadership and employees.

Educate Your Employees

“Shadowing” or “talent share” programs are a great way for employees to learn about other jobs in the company and also for employers to identify talent. If your company doesn’t have one, think about developing programs where employees can branch out into other areas of the business, albeit temporarily or to fill areas of need, and either learn something new, or develop hidden skill sets that you might not be aware they had. Creating a nimble workforce will give you more options when change happens.

Also, making online learning materials available to your employees who may want to hone their skills – or develop new ones – is another step in creating a savvy staff that could answer the call when needed. In the long run, the more motivated a workforce you have, the better quality of leaders can emerge from within.

Even in the most well thought out succession plan, things may go awry. If you can’t find the right match from within when change comes knocking, don’t be afraid to look outside your company for potential fits. Sometimes new blood can invigorate your team.