How will your organization maintain essential knowledge and skills into the future?
What Do we Mean by Succession Planning for Managers? Let’s start with the term Succession Planning. Essentially, it’s a long term approach to ensure that your organization will have the knowledge and skills it needs to be successful in the future. You need to consider the type of competencies that your organization will need. And you need a plan on how you will retain critical knowledge and develop new skills. Rather than just assume you can hire more people, it is a very systematic and targeted approach.
So succession planning for managers is about focusing on the critical management and leadership skills that are core to your business, and ensuring that you have a plan to keep the knowledge and skills. It requires planning and focus in how you deliver professional development for managers. And there are a number of ways this can be done.
Why should we be concerned with Succession Planning for Managers?
We all know its coming. With our aging population, we will at some point see a large percentage of people retire. The smaller population of younger, skilled workers will be in high demand. During the recent economic “challenges”, hiring has slowed and people seem to be hanging on to their jobs.
But at some point, that will change. We may be building a false sense of security that the predicted problem has gone away. We may not see the need for succession planning.
We do hear constantly about our “skills shortage”, focused on specific positions that are in immediate demand. On the other side, we have very skilled people that can’t find jobs. So this really isn’t a skill shortage so much as a mismatch between the current job openings and the job seeker skills. I imagine that constantly hearing about our lack of “skilled workers” must be very frustrating and demeaning to those highly educated and qualified people that can’t find jobs in their field. It must feel like their skills are not valued.
I am very concerned about this short term and narrow focus. Like Chicken Little running around yelling “the sky is falling”, the media gets us focused on this immediate skills shortage and distracted from the long term. We push our children to take training and education in these areas, because we think it is best for our future. But do we really know that those are the skills that will be valued in 10 years? 20 years? 30 years? What about all those teachers that were so needed 30 years ago? Now, it is very difficult for new teachers to find jobs.
What can we do about Succession Planning for Managers?
Organizations (including Government) need to take a long term approach to define the management and leadership skills they will need in the future. And remember that the world will be changing around us, leading to different customer needs and wants. So yes, this does take some research and strategic thinking about where our organization is going. But that will position you to acquire and maintain the skills that you need.
Notice that I said “acquire” and not recruit? We do need to think differently about the future. In my day (the old days!), employees were somewhat like possessions. You wanted them always in sight and under control. But I think we are moving to a different model, where we may have to separate the concept of skills and employees. For example, skills can be acquired through re-training your existing employees or outsourced. Does it really matter if the person with those skills is an employee or not?
I believe retention will be the bigger issue. If you can make your organization desirable to work for, you will be much more likely to retain skilled people – both in-house and outsourced. So put on your thinking cap and ask the question “why will skilled people choose to work for us”? This may be a stretch right now when you have hundreds of applicants for each position. But remember that times will change.
Therefore, investing in your current employees and suppliers (contractors, service providers, etc) will provide long term value. By taking the time to train and develop people in leadership and management skills, you not only build those skills that your organization needs in the future – but these individuals are more likely to be loyal. They are more likely to stay with you, even when offered other “perks”, because they feel valued. And believe it or not, this can be more important than a raise or the corner office.
Where do I start with Succession Planning?
First, you need to be clear on your organizational competencies. What is it that makes you unique and valuable to your customers? What specific knowledge, skills and resources have built those competencies? Don’t get caught up in the latest “fads” for leadership training, or copy what others are doing.
Second, consider which of those competencies will best position you for the future. This should be part of a strategic planning exercise, which evaluates your internal strengths and weaknesses, particularly in relation to external opportunities and threats.
Third, get your managers, executives and employers involved! You will need a broad perspective to analyze options and develop an effective plan. And people like to have some say in the things that will impact them. Involving your managers in decisions about their professional development will help to build engagement.
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