Succession Planning: How Strong Are Your Reserves?

Turnover isn’t an issue companies face with just their entry-level employees anymore – it affects all levels of the corporate ladder. According to a survey conducted by AMA Enterprise, a division of American Management Association, only 28% of respondents are confident their organizations have sufficient leadership depth and no significant gaps in management. And regardless of when turnover will strike your company next, only 19% of those surveyed say they are well prepared to deal with rising turnover or management departures. One thing is certain, as the job market improves, your top producers and most effective leaders may start entertaining the idea of looking for a more attractive company to work for. This threat is real, and if companies don’t do anything about it, they could soon be affected by loss in productivity, creativity, and loyalty among remaining staff. Luckily, it may not be too late to make the changes needed to strengthen your company’s bench and create a succession plan that has a long-term affect on the overall health of your company.

Focus on Career Development

It isn’t just entry-level workers who are focused on their career advancement – even senior-level leadership wants to ensure they are taking the right steps to finish strong. So whether they are 20-somethings who are starting out in the workforce or seasoned professionals who are closing in on the home stretch, individuals are often more loyal to opportunities than to a company. According to the 2013 CareerBuilder Candidate Behavior Study, 77% of workers are either actively searching or open for a change in employment if the opportunity is right.

Understanding what a leader needs to flourish at a company is paramount in sustaining a core workforce. However, though many companies try to have employee development plans in place, some are going about it all wrong. Instead of sending employees and management to cookie-cutter seminars, consider focusing on each individual’s personality traits, strengths, and interests. Then, mold a custom development plan that sets team members up for success, embracing nuances of each person instead of trying to create a homogenized workforce.

Cross Train for Sustainability

Sometimes, employee development doesn’t keep workers at a company. At the end of the day, your team is going to do what’s best for them. Though there’s no need to prepare for mass exodus, it is pertinent to start training others in case a key component in your workforce does head for another job. A study by Gallup, A Succession Plan that Works, explains that in developing sustainability it’s important to know how many leaders you need. First, create an organizational chart, which includes the CEO, the CEO’s direct reports, and then the direct reports of this group. Then multiply that number by three. Though seemingly excessive, it gives your hiring manager three qualified candidates to find one staff member who would be the best fit to fill a position should a high-level management position become vacant.

If your number is in the hundreds, don’t be alarmed, just know that your senior leadership has their work cut out for them. Instead of assuming the normal promotion succession – the worker excels in a particular task, so they would do so with a new one – start introducing responsibilities and training associated with the person they directly report to. This will create a deeper bench should one of your managers get promoted or leave.

Have Open Communication

Another key issue that companies have is the lack of open communication. Although, communication is a two-way street. So it’s not enough to merely have management be open about where the company wants and plans to go, it’s important to encourage employees to do the same. According to another CareerBuilder study, 20% of workers are planning to change jobs in 2014. And though you typically can’t expect workers to openly discuss these sort of future plans, you can discover their personal career goals and see where that fits in your company.

If there are any stepping stones that are already laid out at your company, point them out to your employee. Explain what it will take to reach each mile marker and encourage them to take the necessary steps to reach those goals. When employees at all levels know their company has a vested interest in their career, they tend to flourish. Have an ongoing conversation with your employees about what you want and what they want.

A Place for Everything, and Everything in Its Place

First printed in 1640, this famous idiom was popular among sailors who needed to be sure they had everything organized below deck, as well as all tools and ropes properly stowed and secured so nothing went overboard. In business, this phrase can also have an important meaning to your company. Your staff is made up of a plethora of different personalities, skills, and interests, yet they all have a place under your roof. However, not harnessing their potential could be holding back key players in your leadership succession plan. Understanding the leaders you already have is the first step in being turnover resilient in management, but putting key leaders in place should change occur is the step needed to truly foster sustainable success that’s built to last.

Do you have leaders in place who would step up if a key position became vacant? What are you doing to beef up your bench? Let us know in the comments section below!

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