Successful Succession Planning Requires Training Employees at All Levels

To get a better handle on what’s new in succession planning, we turned to BLR’s newly-published Top 10 Best Practices in HR Management for 2012.

We’re dealing with an aging workforce. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that over one-third of the civilian employees working for the federal government are eligible for retirement. The same situation exists, but to a somewhat lesser degree, in the workforce as a whole. Companies can’t duck the problems that presents.

In this new environment, succession planning has a broader focus. Companies must plan not only for staffing needs at the top of the company but must also identify and plan for future human capital needs at all levels—planning for the future growth and success of the company.

If the company is not prepared and has not invested in its key employees, when the need to fill a position arises, the company will likely find itself looking outside the organization in competition with other public and private employers.

Developing a Succession Plan

To be of real value, a succession plan must include input from senior management, an analysis of the company’s current and future needs for talent, a plan for identifying employees who will be trained and mentored to fill key roles in the future, and a plan for recruiting outside talent to make sure the company has the skills and experience it needs.

Once this is done, the plan must be implemented, and managers and supervisors at all levels of the company must be evaluated on their work in developing employees.

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Early On—Study the Demographics of the Company

Early in the process, it is important to analyze the current workforce. Is “brain drain” going to present a significant problem for the company, and if so, when and in what areas or jobs? Knowing when and where there will be key vacancies or a need to replace accumulated skills and knowledge will help focus on future needs as well as current vacancies when new employees are recruited and hired.

Link Strategic Goals with Human Capital Needs

Identify the talent, skills, and experience the company will need over the next 5 to 10 years in order to achieve goals and continue to be successful. This will include the knowledge, skills, abilities, experience, education, core competencies, and even personality traits that will be needed to fill top management positions and other positions that will be key to the company’s long-term success.

Let Senior Management Play a Role

Armed with demographic information and information on the talent, skills, and experience the company will need over the next 5 to 10 years, HR managers need to involve senior managers in the planning process so that succession planning and the development of employees are adopted as strategic goals.

Senior managers will be more likely to participate in the process if it is linked to their own strategic goals and the long-term strategic goals of the company. Senior management roles include:

  • Reviewing and adjusting the 5- to 10-year analysis of talent, skills, and experience to make sure it is aligned with the long-term goals of the company
  • Identifying key positions and the skills and experience necessary to fill them
  • Using data that are readily available and can be gathered at regular intervals
  • Identifying high achievers or high potential employees already working for the company who will be targeted for mentoring and cross-training so that they can fill key positions in the future
  • Providing project work to targeted employees in order to expand their knowledge and experience and prepare them for future leadership roles
  • Supporting recruiting efforts aimed at hiring individuals with the skills and experience needed now and in the future
  • Evaluating managers and supervisors at all levels of the company on how well they develop and mentor employees

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Notifying Employees

Critical to the effectiveness of any succession plan is employee awareness of such a plan. Employees who are aware of the employer’s succession plan and program will be motivated to perform well. In addition, they will be more likely to stay, knowing that there is a tangible, well-laid-out plan for their future.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, more on succession planning in 2012, plus an introduction to an online library of leadership training for employees.