Pew Research estimates that every day through the year 2025, 10,000 baby boomers will retire. Look around your organization; does that statistic reflect what you think is likely to happen at your nonprofit? While younger workers may be eager to fill the roles being vacated by baby boomers, the truth is that none of us are simply interchangeable parts. We all bring certain strengths – and weaknesses – to a job.

One of the critical jobs of leadership is to develop a bench – the group of employees who will step into a position when the current player steps out of the game. At many nonprofit organizations, developing the current employee is often shortchanged, let alone building the replacement team. We simply run out of time, even if we know we’ll pay the price down the road.

Like many things, succession planning is best done when you don’t need it and can address it over time. So get started today by making the following things happen:

  1. Update all job descriptions. Sharlyn Lauby, writing for TalentSpace Blog, said, “Before companies can start thinking about their succession plans, they have to understand their jobs… Job descriptions are an essential first step.
  1. Set a standard that all job descriptions will be reviewed at annual reviews and updated as necessary. Making this a measurable outcome. Time quickly gets by, so if you aren’t monitoring compliance, it will not happen.
  1. Have all employees document all tasks they do that can be documented. While “thinking” may not be something that you can easily describe to someone else, listing good resources for triggering ideas for writing a direct mail appeal, for example, can certainly be captured on paper. Allow time for this process with benchmarks along the way to keep it from being only a good intention. Ideally, have every procedure “field tested” by someone else who doesn’t know how to do the job. The goal is to make sure, in the worse case scenario, someone can step in and keep your organization operating.

Many of us don’t like to think that anyone else could easily fill our shoes at our organization, but all of us need to make sure that if the day comes when that’s necessary, that it as easy as possible. That’s a sure way to secure your legacy as a hero!