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Succession Planning – Preparing for the Future

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Succession PlanningIf the employees who currently hold key or critical positions within your organization were to leave tomorrow, would there be any qualified and/or experienced employees prepared to assume their role?

As the demographics of the workplace continue to shift with employees of the baby boomer generation quickly heading towards retirement, many organizations are struggling to answer this question. Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing internal employees with the potential to fill key or critical organizational positions. For some, succession planning was something that only larger corporations did; it didn’t apply to smaller businesses or not-for-profit organizations… until now. Consider this:

  • Forecasts show that by the year 2012, the first wave of Baby boomers – individuals born between 1943 & 1965 and the largest generational demographic in today’s workforce – will start to retire.
  • In 2009, the rate of retirement in BC among senior managers was 42 retirements per 1,000 people in the labour force, compared to 23 out of 1,000 people in the labour force overall.
  • The highest retirement rates are in senior management positions and occupations requiring the greatest skill and experience. These occupations typically have an older labour force given the years of work experience and training required to fill the positions.
  • In 2009, the average age of senior managers in BC was 46.6, compared to 40.7 across all occupations.
  • Organizations that fail to prepare for the need to replace retiring employees could experience issues with productivity and product/service quality.

Unless organizations have programs and/or systems in place to ensure that corporate knowledge is not lost with departing employees, valuable time, energy and productivity will be wasted on re-learning processes and procedures.

If your organization is considering, or in the process of, implementing succession planning here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • In order to be fully effective, succession planning should be more than a stand-alone initiative.When developing succession planning strategies, they need to fit within the overall strategic direction of the organization in order to help strengthen the organization’s capacity for long term sustainability.
  • Succession planning is not just an HR initiative. Senior managers need to be responsible for identifying strong leaders within his or her organization and to help them develop in preparation for the next step in their career.
  • The “fear being replaced” is needs to be replaced with the “desire to be replaced”. Senior managers need to embrace the opportunity to mentor and prepare aspiring individuals prepare to step into his or her position. Even if they are not retiring, this enables them to perhaps advance into another position in their own career path.
  • Succession planning may need to include looking outside of the organization. Although it is preferable to be able to develop individuals from within the organization, that is not always possible or realistic for a variety of reasons. In these cases, the organization may need to look outside of itself to recruiting new talent.
  • Succession plans should be an ongoing process. Revisit succession plans regularly to ensure that they are being followed and make adjustments as required.

Whether or not organizations foresee a turnover of key leadership positions, implementing a proactive succession plan will help minimize the loss of corporate retention, increase employee engagement and ultimately strengthen the organization’s capacity for long term sustainability.

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