The hospitality industry operates in a constantly evolving and dynamic environment. Ensuring that business continues with the least possible disruption has become one of the main priorities after the pandemic. This is why having people in the right place who can quickly adapt to change is crucial. This is where succession planning comes in.
Succession planning is a process where employers prepare candidates from within the business to take over critical leadership roles at the appropriate time. It’s a long-term process, usually taking anywhere from 12 to 36 months. A lot of preparation is needed to ensure that vacancies are promptly filled by competent people, mainly because their skills and experience were identified beforehand. Guaranteeing business continuity becomes a proactive rather than reactive process with the help of succession planning, regardless of your company size.
The Difference Between Succession Planning and Career Development
When talking about employee staffing, it’s easy to get confused with the terms succession planning and career development. The two are actually quite different from each other.  While succession planning involves recognising and developing people in the organisation who can move into a soon-to-be-vacant position, career development is more about the individual taking stock of their own goals in the context of their career.
Career development is focused on an individual employee and their chosen path within the organisation. Career development is primarily for the benefit of the employee, while succession planning is aimed at the benefit of the organisation.
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How to Create a Succession Plan
The following 5 steps will help you create a succession plan for your hotel, restaurant or resort:
1. Analyse the Key Positions In the Company
The first step when creating a succession plan is to identify the most important jobs in your company. What job will have the most negative impact on the hotel if it is vacated without having someone available to take over immediately? Will your hotel, restaurant or resort be able to function and be successful if no one is working in the position? A job’s vulnerability and criticality are factors that you should consider. You also need to look at the industry as a whole to determine how it will change in 5 to 10 years. This will help you zero in on the jobs that are most valuable in your company.
2. Determine Which Employees Can Take Over
There might be only one person within the company who can easily take over a higher position. Or, you might be lucky and have several employees who can fill the vacancy effortlessly. Either way, a person's knowledge, skills, interests, and potential are criteria that should be considered at this stage. You need to have a basic list of non-negotiable qualifications and skills that the candidate must possess to be successful in the future or soon-to-be-vacated job.
3. Figure Out When the Successor Can Take Over
As an HR or Hotel manager, it’s critical to know when a candidate can take over a certain job. Will the person be ready in three months, six months or a year? This scale will ensure that your hospitality business will run like a well-oiled machine during the transition and take over period.
4. Create a Development and Training Plan
Even though you might have employees in your company that can step up if a higher position suddenly becomes available, there will always be one or two things they will need to improve on. Training, coaching, classes, workshops, and seminars are a few things you can offer to your employees. These options will assist them as they take on a higher role in the company.
5. Assess and Adjust the Succession Plan Accordingly
People who designed the succession plan, as well as everyone who is involved in implementing it, should regularly check if the plan is effective and functional. At this stage, you need to assess what's working, and what's not working. You should make changes to your plan where needed based on this information. Hospitality leaders should continually train and develop their employees to ensure continuity in the succession plan. 
5 Benefits of Succession Planning for Your Hotel’s Workforce Strategy
1. Protecting the business from sudden unexpected changes. A hotel business needs to be agile and resilient so it is never crippled by the departure or loss of a member occupying a critical position. Succession planning prepares the business for a timely response to a future need.
2. Promoting training and development. It identifies strengths within the workforce as well as reveals its weaknesses. Planning ahead requires a review of internal assets. Skills gaps can be identified and addressed with proper training and retooling in the process.
3. Recognising the talent pool and pursuing quality employees. Talented, promising individuals can be groomed to take over key roles and given adequate motivation for growth within the organisation. Positive feedback and reinforcements by way of incentives, whether material or simple prestige, encourages employees to stay within the organisation instead of seeking greener pastures elsewhere.
4. Enabling knowledge transfer and improving the way your company learns. When experience and years on the job are recognised and given due importance, senior-level employees will feel encouraged to mentor and share their wealth of knowledge with younger employees as part of their growth plan. This ensures a smooth continuity on the job even with the changing of the guards.
5. Preserving brand integrity and reputation. It’s important that the people who succeed in leadership positions within the company embody the same company values as those who came before them. This can be done by priming them early in their career. Consistency in company values is particularly important in an industry that is highly visible and customer-focused, such as the hotel sector.
What Role Does Mentorship Play in Succession Planning?
Mentoring plays a key role in succession planning. It gives senior executives who are leaving the company an opportunity to pass on industry as well as cultural knowledge. Typically, this knowledge has been obtained firsthand through years of experience on the job.
A benefit of mentoring is that it allows the person taking over to ask the predecessor questions. It is crucial that there is regular communication between the two parties during this transition period. Mentoring also shows high-performing employees that the company is invested in their growth and career development. Opportunities for internal promotions can boost employee morale, and act as an incentive for employees to exceed expectations.
Having a mentoring program in place allows the job responsibilities to be transferred in a gradual and methodical manner. Consequently, the employee taking over can get a clearer grasp of future tasks instead of being overwhelmed at the last minute.
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