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How to Build Your Succession Plan

Succession planning doesn’t happen all at once. Breaking the process down into smaller pieces helps you focus on the roles that are most important to your company. The most important steps include:

1. Identify your most important roles

Identify the roles that are most important to the success of the company (either now or in the next 3-5 years) and compare them to the strength of the talent you have in those positions. We use a 2x2 matrix:

High Importance/Low Talent = Highest priority
High Importance/High Talent = Priority
Low Importance/High Talent = Lower Priority
Low Importance/Low Talent = Low Priority
2. Build the job descriptions and key roles & responsibilities

Starting with the highest priority positions, define (or revise) the job description as well as the main roles & responsibilities. Build the “perfect” job description for the company. Don’t take into account the skills of the person currently filling the role. In addition, identify the skills, experience and training needs required for someone to be successful in the position, and start to identify what skills will be required to future proof it. You can set up a skills matrix to track what is required for each position.

Access skills matrix tools and hear tips from Michigan manufacturers during a live roundtable discussion on Thursday, 11/30/21, at 8:30 a.m. Learn more and register online.

3. Assess your employees

Now that you have the job descriptions, roles and responsibilities and skills matrices for your most important positions, you can begin to assess your talent. Look at the people currently in the positions as well as others across the organization who, with the right training, might be capable of doing the job. By putting names and skills into the matrix, you will begin to see the gaps that need to be filled (for both the current talent and future talent).

4. Communicate

Communication is crucial to successful succession planning. When you know what is needed to be successful in a role and you have an idea of who could fill it in the future (with additional training), have that conversation. Now more than ever, employees want to feel valued by the company and to know that there is a growth plan for them. Communicating your plans for their future growth increases engagement and makes your employees less likely to leave. Even if they are not ready to take on additional responsibility now, they will appreciate the outreach and you can check back with them later.

5. Follow through

Once you have your succession plan (including key roles, skills matrices, employee assessments and communication), you need to follow through on it. If you have promised training to your employees, make sure it happens. Too many companies allow “fires” to be an excuse to cancel training or delay skills development. In manufacturing, there is never a good time for someone to be out for training. Cancelling training in the short-term may feel like the right decision, but it will impact your long-term ability to “bus-proof” your company and will hurt overall employee engagement by not walking the talk.

Succession planning is critical to your business success as well as to employee engagement and retention. By taking the time and effort now to build a solid succession plan, you can future proof your company for the long-term.


Premium Associate MemberSigred Solutions is an MMA Premium Associate Member and has been an MMA member company since November 2020. Visit online: sigredsolutions.com.

NAMEMike Dergis is a Partner with Sigred Solutions. He has over 25 years of experience in operational management, executive recruiting, organizational development and international strategy consulting. He may be reached mike.dergis@sigredsolutions.com.

Succession planning doesn’t happen all at once. Breaking the process down into smaller pieces helps you focus on the roles that are most important to your company. The most important steps include:

1. Identify your most important roles

Identify the roles that are most important to the success of the company (either now or in the next 3-5 years) and compare them to the strength of the talent you have in those positions. We use a 2x2 matrix:

High Importance/Low Talent = Highest priority
High Importance/High Talent = Priority
Low Importance/High Talent = Lower Priority
Low Importance/Low Talent = Low Priority
2. Build the job descriptions and key roles & responsibilities

Starting with the highest priority positions, define (or revise) the job description as well as the main roles & responsibilities. Build the “perfect” job description for the company. Don’t take into account the skills of the person currently filling the role. In addition, identify the skills, experience and training needs required for someone to be successful in the position, and start to identify what skills will be required to future proof it. You can set up a skills matrix to track what is required for each position.

Access skills matrix tools and hear tips from Michigan manufacturers during a live roundtable discussion on Thursday, 11/30/21, at 8:30 a.m. Learn more and register online.

3. Assess your employees

Now that you have the job descriptions, roles and responsibilities and skills matrices for your most important positions, you can begin to assess your talent. Look at the people currently in the positions as well as others across the organization who, with the right training, might be capable of doing the job. By putting names and skills into the matrix, you will begin to see the gaps that need to be filled (for both the current talent and future talent).

4. Communicate

Communication is crucial to successful succession planning. When you know what is needed to be successful in a role and you have an idea of who could fill it in the future (with additional training), have that conversation. Now more than ever, employees want to feel valued by the company and to know that there is a growth plan for them. Communicating your plans for their future growth increases engagement and makes your employees less likely to leave. Even if they are not ready to take on additional responsibility now, they will appreciate the outreach and you can check back with them later.

5. Follow through

Once you have your succession plan (including key roles, skills matrices, employee assessments and communication), you need to follow through on it. If you have promised training to your employees, make sure it happens. Too many companies allow “fires” to be an excuse to cancel training or delay skills development. In manufacturing, there is never a good time for someone to be out for training. Cancelling training in the short-term may feel like the right decision, but it will impact your long-term ability to “bus-proof” your company and will hurt overall employee engagement by not walking the talk.

Succession planning is critical to your business success as well as to employee engagement and retention. By taking the time and effort now to build a solid succession plan, you can future proof your company for the long-term.


Premium Associate MemberSigred Solutions is an MMA Premium Associate Member and has been an MMA member company since November 2020. Visit online: sigredsolutions.com.

NAMEMike Dergis is a Partner with Sigred Solutions. He has over 25 years of experience in operational management, executive recruiting, organizational development and international strategy consulting. He may be reached mike.dergis@sigredsolutions.com.