Planning to leave your position as your organization’s Chief Security Officer is not top of mind if you have just arrived in the job. It may initially seem counter-intuitive, but it should be something you consider early in your tenure.

Succession planning is a key component in the architecture of your security workforce. It will position your department to better serve your company’s current and future needs when you – or others – leave.

Succession planning has historically been used for key executive-level positions. The trend is now toward positioning successors for a much wider cohort. A proactive succession plan in place for more than just the CSO/CISO positions means successful transitions when other key contributors leave their jobs.

Advantages to constructing a succession plan early on include:

  • Alignment of the security function with broader organizational strategies;
  • Provides a clear understanding of your team’s competencies and skills;
  • Allows for development and retention of key talent;
  • Demonstrates organizational commitment to employee growth; and
  • Reduces cost to hire by reducing turnover.

Flags that mean you have work to do in positioning your team for future success include poorly defined job descriptions not in parity with other departments in the organization. Clear employee development paths cannot be mapped without knowledge of what the jobs are and what competencies and skills are required to be successful in them.

Critical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each of your team members offers the opportunity to progress those who are ready, train and develop where required and target new hiring if necessary. It ensures you have a clear understanding of your security talent pipeline.

Another indicator is large discrepancies between base compensation of team members. Promotional salary increases within companies are usually capped at 10 percent. You may have the right people in place, but salary levels may require adjustment.

It is also important for your team to have credibility with senior management. Development of a strong, cross-functional team that is accountable for key security program components increases the likelihood they will be viewed as promotable successors when roles shift.

Do not view succession planning solely as finding your own replacement. Having an early, broader succession plan in place will ensure a smooth transition when roles change or any of your key team members leave.