Succession Planning in Small Entities

Article written by SGF member Sarah Buccigross.

Small governments face a unique challenge in properly making succession plans. Staff sizes are generally limited, and employees can be siloed in their job duties. These realities of being in a smaller entity create challenges, making proper succession planning an essential part of the office structure. To achieve a successful succession plan, employers will need to communicate with their current employees, allocate for the resources needed to carry out the plan, and relay their needs to decision-makers.

Communication amongst current employees has to be at a high level in any process, but for succession planning to be effective there has to be some transparency in what can be a sensitive subject. Keeping an open dialogue on future goals from your employees can help you to determine whether you will need to recruit from outside of your organization. If employees are willing to share their retirement plans that information can also be crucial to be able to get a jump on future needs in the department.

Reviewing and planning for the resources needed to implement your succession plan is something that should be discussed regularly. Additional training, recruitment costs, and temporary role creation are tools that can be planned for if the budget allows. Training and education allowances could help encourage employees to take the next step in their careers. A temporary role could be developed to help bring someone in for training/shadowing purposes in advance of retirements.

Relaying needs to decision-makers can be difficult when there may be a need for overlapping roles and/or additional payroll expenses to properly train incoming employees. Meeting with the decision-makers in advance of those needs can help them prepare for the potential costs of additional training/recruitment spending. Providing information on the workload and potential for mistakes made by an understaffed department can be helpful in stressing the importance of filling roles timely and with qualified employees.

Although succession planning is a challenging process, it cannot be avoided. Especially in small governments, there is a shortage of qualified and experienced employees coming into finance. Thus, governments have to plan how to fill their open positions - occasionally years before vacancies. A small gap in filled roles can cause much more stress than spending time making a good plan.

To continue the discussion on succession planning, please join us in the Small Government Forum community.

  • How has your department prepared for succession planning?
  • Have you found successful methods for communicating succession plans to elected leaders?
  • What are your biggest challenges in being able to implement your succession plan?