Succession Planning: The One Piece of the Puzzle Bad Leadership Ignores

What would happen to your organization if a key individual suddenly wasn’t there? Worse, what if your current leadership team decided one-by-one that it was time to leave your organization … all within a year or two? With so many Baby Boomers set to leave the workplace in the next few years, that’s exactly what your organization could be facing. Yet, studies show that an alarming number of business owners haven’t even begun succession planning for their companies. Unbelievable!

Succession planning is a systematic approach to ensuring that an organization has a steady, reliable pipeline of talent to meet its future needs in leadership and other essential roles. Besides, it just makes good business sense for every organization to develop systems to support succession planning, right?

Benefits of Succession Planning 

Companies that use succession planning achieve many benefits. They include:

  1. Improved retention of talented employees
  2. Faster decisions in filling key positions
  3. Eliminating the need for external searches that are costly for key positions
  4. Active development of longer-term successors — through encouraging career progress and skill development
  5. Fostering a positive corporate culture
  6. Maintaining a strong talent pool
  7. A culture and system that encourages other talent to seek employment with your company

There are many ways that succession plans can unfold within an organization. It is critical, however, that the planning be based on company vision, mission, and goals. These goals need to drive the skills and attitudes that are identified as critical for those in key leadership positions. All employees should be aware that such a process exists and of how it works. Those covered by the process should have an opportunity to have input about their own career aspirations and preferences.

The Changing Face of the Workplace

Now more than ever, succession planning is critical to the continued success of an organization. In today’s world, however, there are many unique factors that combined to change the face and feel of the labor market. In its history, this country has never experienced such a dramatic change in the workforce. But, the smart companies are the ones getting prepared. The problem isn’t just that there will be so many talented professionals leaving the workplace in the years ahead. The problem is that experts are predicting that the talent pool that follows the Baby Boomers will not be large enough or skilled enough to fill all the gaps left behind.

  • The number of individuals between the ages of 35 and 45 is decreasing by 15 percent
  • The demand for talented 35- to 45-year-olds will continue to rise (projected at 25 percent) at the same time the available number is decreasing
  • Baby Boomers are beginning to retire and Generation X doesn’t have enough people to replace those retiring
  • More and more people are retiring early

Mentoring Programs  

Mentoring refers to a developmental relationship between a more experienced mentor and a less experienced partner referred to as a mentee or protégé. There are two types of mentoring relationships: formal and informal. Informal relationships develop on their own between partners. On the other hand, formal mentoring refers to assigned relationships often associated with organizational mentoring programs. These are designed to promote employee development.

Well-designed formal mentoring programs include:

  • Program goals
  • Schedules
  • Training (for mentors and mentees)
  • Evaluation
  • Open access

Identifying potential successors is challenging. It can be helpful to include pieces at various points: performance reviews, mentoring programs, skill development tracking, and reward programs and other incentive programs. Furthermore, succession planning is a two-way street. The organization needs to identify what it wants and needs, and individuals need to identify what they want and need. Like a beautiful piece of music played by an orchestra, succession planning involves arranging these two parallel paths and merging them into a meaningful connection.

In conclusion, it’s up to you to make sure you have the right people going down the right paths toward continued organizational success. If you don’t take the necessary steps now, you’re leaving your organization open for disaster.

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