Steve Jobs and Apple remind us of the importance of proper succession planning

In January, Steve Jobs announced he would be taking medical leave from Apple, leaving employees, shareholders, and tech lovers to ask, "What now?" While there is no doubt that Jobs has been at large the mastermind behind Apple's most cutting-edge products and a driving force behind their market growth, it remains to be seen how much Jobs' sudden departure will take out of Apple's core.

The answer all comes down to two words: succession planning. Though the exact plan is unknown to the public, Apple has assured its shareholders that there is one in place. As this situation plays out, the importance of proactive and strategic succession plans will resonate not only with Apple workers and shareholders, but with companies in general.

However, business leaders shouldn't be the only ones concerned with succession planning. Job seekers, too, should pay close attention to how the companies they are interviewing with prepare for the departure of talent.

Why? Succession planning involves a process that develops employee skills to prepare them for advancement while keeping them retained. For employees, this translates to training opportunities, a company culture that values its workforce, and the possibility of upward mobility within the organization. It's something to consider whether you are looking to climb the corporate ladder, or are searching for the security of a stable company that can weather any storm.

So how can you tell if your company or the company you are seeking employment with values proper succession planning? Ask yourself the following:

Does your company have a clear performance management system in place? Consider what the review process is like in your company. Is it geared toward goal-setting and improvement? Or--gulp--is there a review process in place?

Does your company promote from within? While only promoting from within can cause a company to become stale and lose its edge, there should be a fair blend of finding outside talent and identifying leaders from within. Part of this process involves understanding employee goals and fostering a culture that helps them attain them.

Do you see a clear career path? Once an employee masters their current role, they often seek ways to enhance or enrich their responsibilities. Does your company embrace the natural metamorphosis of your role?

Do you work in a silo? In other words, do you know your company's long-term goals and how they plan to get there? And are you encouraged to be a part of a collaborative team that achieves these goals, not just a cog in the wheel? It is so important for every employee, from intern to CEO, to know their company's mission and vision statement, and for every company to clearly communicate this to their employees.

The patterns and realities you reveal during this discovery process will tell you a lot about how the employer values their employees both now and in the future. It should give you some insight into your future at the company, and the company's preparedness to continue to thrive, regardless of the obstacles that come its way.

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