A lot of people talk about succession management, but who is really doing it? Many organizations lose valuable experience when employees leave. It pays to develop a radar for continuity. A proactive, open and social succession strategy prevents ad hoc search for replacement. It increases the employee satisfaction. It increases internal mobility. And it costs almost nothing.

Identifying and developing successors can be improved in many organizations. Plans are usually laid out for the top. Especially with publicly known figures. Think of Steve Jobs’ succession by Tim Cook. Apple had their succession plan ready for a long time. Yet the average employer prefers not to discuss voluntary departures of employees. It’s a taboo subject. Some managers don’t want to talk about their employees leaving. Or even worse: managers that don’t care about the long term well being of the company.

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Head-in-the-Sand Policy
Companies without a succession management strategy, have a head-in-the-sand policy. Anno 2015, employees no longer stay for decades with the same employer, let alone in the same role. And if they do stay that long, then it’s up to the organizations to keep things fresh. To help employees to continuously learn and evolve during their career. Four tips for Succession Management.

1. Start at the beginning.

Succession Management starts when someone starts working for your company. Focus on building a personal development plan as part of the onboarding process. Map out expectations, ambitions and goals. This will provide a much broader perspective on the employability of employees. And by involving the employees in the process, you co-develop a route map and discover needs for training or education early.

2. Let employees choose their own successor.

Employees think about their career. Let them also think about their successor. If you work together to prepare the successor you’ll likely to be more successful. And thus you can achieve higher internal mobility. This concept has been around for centuries. Back in the Middle Ages, most carpenters had a protégé who would eventually take over the senior role of the carpenter. The synergy between master and apprentice can create positive energy that can attract new talent to your organization as well.

3. Big Data is a Big Talent Pool

A talent pool is a group of people with certain talents that allow them to rapidly step in a role. For example a talent pool of strong Project Managers. And such a talent pool can be much more than a list of internal employees. Modern technology makes it possible to add talent on a global scale. And to add talent from outside the organization: applicants, contractors, freelancers, etc. That is why Social Media is so important. It gives easy access to a lot of data. Especially solutions like LinkedIn and EnterpriseJungle are very useful for finding and categorizing talent.

4. Make Succession Management transparent

Remove the taboo on Succession Management by making your internal talent pools transparent. That way people can help each other to achieve each other’s succession goals. Employers can support a more transparent succession culture by telling inspiring success stories of colleagues that flourish and the positive impact on the company. Do not fear transparency. Fear (of losing employees) is never a good advisor. Turn it around: Encourage higher mobility and with that have more control over the process. With improved employability and mobility you will improve your company’s innovation strength.

Ask yourself this:

How much would it cost to replace you by someone who does not have your experience and knowledge of the organization? First, think about the recruitment costs to pull someone out of the market to replace you. But then think about the time, training and energy it will take for that person to perform at least on the same level as you. Now visualize the impact this has on the revenue of your company. That is what you earn with a proactive, open and social succession management strategy.


Comments? Feel free to drop them here: PattWiller@Twitter

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  1. Sarah Goodall

    Superb post Patrick – I had a fantastic HR Business Partner when I worked for Hitachi and she drilled the importance of succession planning into me from an early stage.  It’s almost like you’re preparing to put yourself out of a job but it’s the right approach for the greater good of the business.  I hired my successor knowing one day he would take my role and he’s still doing the role today and a brilliant job of it from what I can see 🙂

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