Succession planning for your entire organization

With baby boomers retiring in large numbers, the talent pool is shrinking

Succession planning has traditionally been considered only important for top-level employees. More recently, the rationale has been applied to grooming successors at all levels of the organization – receptionist and CEO.

With baby boomers retiring in large numbers, the talent pool is shrinking. Belt-tightening measures have eliminated a lot of people who might have been eligible for promotion. Retention becomes even more important than it has traditionally been.

Additionally, the general wisdom is that offering jobs to external candidates may not be the most effective way to fill higher positions. We must hire not just for today’s needs, but also with a look toward the future.

Grooming internal candidates ensures continuity and helps the transition process appear more seamless because training begins long before an employee is promoted. Someone starting anew is far more expensive than a person who holds the institutional knowledge that is the foundation of a well-functioning organization. And the cost of overlapping an outgoing employee with an incoming person is far lower than a new hire trying to learn the job in isolation.

Succession planning allows choice from a talent pool that is already highly qualified – now and in the future. The upside for employees is that they are initially hired into an environment that values their growth, provides opportunities to develop new skills and abilities, and increases the chances for job security. Such an atmosphere is exciting in its commitment to learning and development, even if the promise of higher positions can’t always be assured.

Imagine everyone embracing a learning model tied to a possible career path. The message is, “We care about your future as well as the future of the organization.”


Numerous advantages


The following is an essential process toward implementing a succession planning program:

 • Identify the organization’s long-term goals, priorities and objectives

 • Assess how services are provided now and might be provided in the future and engage in selective hiring that looks at employee potential as well as present expertise

 • Establish a set of competencies considered desirable in high-potential employees and create the training tools needed to achieve them

 • Identify workforce needs and establish a process that recruits employees toward developing their skills, preparing them for advancement and mentoring them throughout their tenure

 • Develop a communication strategy that clearly describes possible career paths, available training and competency building as well as the process that will be used to select a successor

 • Assign mentors who can guide and assist possible candidates’ development (Mentors – who should not be their supervisors – are responsible for supporting them, as well as making sure they have access to knowledge, skill development and professional experience.)

 • Put measurement tools in place to assess progression, the meeting of criteria, appropriate training, and expectations

 • Be sure the above process is dynamic (keeping up with changes and new information as they arise) and tailored to meet the specific needs of your organization

 • Utilize expertise from all levels of the organization

 • Ensure that the process has wide support and is constantly emphasized in day-to-day activity

 • Review your process on an ongoing basis to be certain that the plan that is in place still makes sense

The advantages to committing to a succession-planning program are numerous. Employee satisfaction and retention are bound to increase because employees are more attracted to a supportive learning environment that delivers the message, “Those who work for us are valued and worth nurturing.” Further, professional development is more meaningful when tied to possible career paths and individual growth.

There will be a consistent supply of well-trained, experienced, and motivated people who are ready to step into key positions, while performing their present jobs with skill and commitment. They are often less resistant to change because they are part of the plan and more committed to continuous improvement. If they know that they’re going to stay, they have a stake in the organization’s success.

Finally, the organization will be seen as a challenging, stimulating place to work, and new hires will quickly acquire the energy and excitement manifest by present employees.

If this is not convincing enough, consider the peace of mind created by the knowledge that the future will be in good hands.

Gerri King, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and founding partner of Human Dynamics Associates Inc. based in Concord.

Categories: Business Advice