Succession planning is an inescapable part of business, but some companies have no plan in place to prepare new leaders.

All leaders must inspire and train successors. By developing their workforces for success, they promote business continuity and key employee engagement and help manage business risk. While many organizations understand the importance of succession, others have not found suitable programs to address this important activity, especially at higher levels in the organization. Here are six essential ingredients of an effective succession-planning program.

Define what success looks like. A program should create a high-level picture of the knowledge, skills, abilities and mindsets required to succeed in the role. Create a program that builds leadership skills based on proven frameworks. Your program should offer classroom training and self-study modules to build knowledge, skills and mindsets and provide opportunities to practice and integrate those into ongoing work, then discuss the successes and challenges. Balance skill-building with tools and activities to build self-awareness and integrate skills into practice. In addition to developing skills required for leadership, create tools, exercises and reflection activities that help each leader build the self-awareness and leadership presence required in senior level roles. Learn from thought leaders and experts. You should provide a library of resources that support aspiring executives in building skills and learning from the perspective of a broad range of leadership experts and thought leaders across multiple fields, ranging from leading academics to senior executives and government officials. Learn from successful executives. Participants must have the opportunity to engage with senior leaders, leadership experts and thought leaders through round tables and discussions after the round tables. These components will help participants translate what others do into what they will do when they return to work. Build a strong network of support within the field. The learning process should allow for participants to learn from each other and hold each other accountable. Additionally, the program should offer social and professional networking opportunities for the group.

During times of significant change, successful leaders and organizations must perpetually innovate and prepare for the future. This level of innovation and evolution requires the continual training of successors. Without a thoughtful program in place, organizations may not be positioned for long-term growth and success.

Maureen Metcalf, founder, CEO, and board chair of Metcalf & Associates, is an executive advisor, consultant, speaker and author. The central Ohio CIO Forum partnered with Expedient, Metcalf & and the city of Dublin in creating Central Ohio IT Leaders Program, a professional development program to train chief information officer successors across the region.