Succession planning for your accounting and finance department

The smooth operation of your organization’s accounting and finance department is essential to an organization’s overall success. One often forgotten tool to ensure seamless operations is a succession plan for key positions within the department. Creating a succession plan is easy. From experience working with thousands of clients nationwide, Baker Tilly specialists recommend using the following six-step approach to creating your accounting and finance department’s succession plan:

Evaluate future changes and risks

The first step in succession planning is to consider upcoming departmental changes and risks you already know about that would affect the continuity of the department’s operations. An example of a future change might be the retirement of a long time staffer and a potential risk could be operating with a small team where the absence of one team member jeopardizes the department’s operations.

Build a team

When developing your succession plan, it is important to bring together a team that represents different skillsets and perspectives to help ensure the succession plan is as comprehensive as possible.

Identify key positions, requisite skills, and candidate sources

As a team, determine which positions are critical to the department’s continued operations as well as the requisite skills and experience required for successor candidates. Next, consider how you would source candidates for the positions. For example, if you want to look internally, consider making a short list of candidates who are already qualified or could be qualified with some additional training should the need arise. If you need to look externally, determine how, when, and where you would market the position and whether or not it makes sense to bring in a third party recruiter.

Ensure adequate coverage

Determine how to ensure adequate coverage during a period where you experience a staff shortage and how to quickly onboard the successor candidate. When possible, it is ideal to allow the successor candidate time to work side-by-side with individual they are replacing to get comfortable in the new role. However, in situations where this is not realistic, you may consider cross training your staff to assist in the transition, bringing on temporary professional, or outsourcing specific duties to a third party provider.

Develop the plan

Once the team has evaluated the options and determined how to handle future succession issues, develop your plan in written form or as a verbal agreement.

Continuous improvement

After the plan is developed, it is a good idea to reconvene the team at regular intervals, for example quarterly, and otherwise as needed. These meetings will provide the team a venue to discuss plan improvements, gaps, and shortcomings.

Once your plan is created, ensuring consistent implementation and continuous improvement are the keys to successful transitions. Although personnel changes are often unpredictable, your organization can be ahead of the curve by completing the above steps and making succession planning a strategic priority for the department.

For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly state and local government specialists can help, contact our team.