Succession planning has become a buzzword in today’s human resources and business communities.
It’s no wonder: as “first wave” baby boomers begin to retire, some high-level executives of our organizations will be among them. Because the volume of retiring executive level leaders are expected to be proportionately greater than in the past, organizations must ensure that competent, qualified employees are ready to step into these positions. Two questions commonly come to mind; the first is “Why is this important?” A succession plan is created for a number of reasons: so that well-trained, motivated, broadly experienced and capable people are ready to step into these top leadership positions, so that the corporate legacy and memory – the intellectual capital, skills, and culture of the organization – remain with the organization, and so the organization continues to grow and prosper. The second question is “Why should this matter to me?” The short answer: It could just be an opportunity for you.
Below are tips for both leaders and human resources professionals thinking about beginning the succession planning process, and for employees aspiring to enhance their careers.
For leaders and HR:
- Research and explore succession planning standards- even if you don’t have baby boomers planning to retire, key leaders (and the knowledge and expertise they possess) may leave your organization. If you haven’t started your succession planning, do so now. Read about it, get information from contacts and experts, and work with a succession planning consultant.
- Determine leadership needs: first, think about critical functions/roles, then identify the key positions associated with each function.
- Identify the essential qualities needed to be an effective leader at your organization (the ability to motivate, inspire, create and facilitate change, for example) in addition to the technical skills and qualifications needed for these key positions.
- Identify high-level performers within the organization; consider looking outside the organization if additional or diverse talent is needed.
- Create a development plan for these individuals. This may include formal education (certificate or degree programs) as well as internal development programs (mentoring, coaching, job rotations, special assignments, and the like).
- Plan for a transition period. Development usually takes several years, so preparing for such a change and allowing for new executives to learn informal practices, hierarchies and key relationships are
For the employee:
- If you haven’t yet done so, evaluate your strengths and interests and define your career path. Enlist help or a thinking partner to provide an objective viewpoint.
- Keep your eyes open for opportunities to demonstrate your skills and commitment. Increase your visibility, perhaps to individuals in other lines of your business.
- Pay attention to how business ‘gets done’ at your organization – its culture, its informal practices.
- Present yourself as a problem solver, not a complainer. Identify solutions to problems rather than placing blame. Work collaboratively with others to implement a solution. These qualities get leaders’ attention.
Emily can seek out formal education to increase her technical skills. She can also seek support from a coach, groups or seminars for the development of key non-technical skills, such as public speaking, negotiating or leadership skills.
Emily should also look for opportunities to become visible to others in the company, especially those in leadership positions. This may be accomplished by working on special work projects, volunteering for activities or company-sponsored social events that will put her in contact with influential leaders. And, she should remember that demonstrating her skills is a far more effective method to create a positive impression than merely telling others about her expertise.