A Publication of WTVP

What would you do if all of the senior managers in your organization departed unexpectedly tomorrow? Would you be thrown into an organizational crisis, or do you have a group of successors in the wings groomed and ready to step in? Depending on your answer, you may need to take action on developing a succession plan.

A succession plan, by definition, is a plan to provide for continuity among key positions in an organization. Basically, it’s a game plan that identifies internal talent for leadership roles in the organization. Succession plans can be formal or informal. They should exist in organizations of all sizes and are primarily driven by the CEO, with implementation responsibility given to the human resources department. In recent years, succession plans have become much more sophisticated to ensure the continuous development of employees to fill key roles is achieved. Organizations now are moving and upgrading their succession management systems from a replacement mechanism to a more tactical mechanism that has a strong link between talent and organizational strategy.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2006 Succession Planning Survey Report released June 8, formal succession plans are most common among organizations with 500 or more employees. Thirty-six percent of such organizations have formal succession plans, compared with 23 percent of medium-sized companies (100 to 499 employees) and 19 percent of smaller firms (one to 99 employees).

Workplace diversity, recruitment and retention, employee development, and workplace trends are factors organizations should take into account when developing succession plans. Survey respondents agree or strongly agree that a succession plan should have qualities such as:

• Identifying employees who potentially could fill future vacancies in leadership positions.
• Ensuring critical positions within the organization have proper successors.
• Consideration of the organization’s long-term goals.
• Identifying prospective vacancies in leadership positions.
• Consideration of workforce trends, such as an aging workforce, retention, and turnover.

A well-run succession plan anticipates changes and prepares employees for potential leadership roles so when a need arises, a current employee is ready to fill a vacancy. One of the most difficult parts of the succession process is creating a systematic and structured method that evaluates employees, grows their talents and abilities, and prepares them for advancement.

We’re facing critical times when it comes to the shrinking labor pool. I hear from companies practically every day about not finding enough of the right people with the right talents. I may sound like a broken record, but maybe if I write about it enough times, it’ll begin to stick. So, once again, I plead for the employer community to take a closer look inside their organizations to observe how they retain and grow their most important asset—their people. IBI