Written by: Lorrie Coffey, Horizon Point Consulting
“Before companies can start to think about their succession plans, they have to understand their jobs.” – Sharlyn Lauby, President of ITM Group, Inc.
For the past few weeks I’ve been focused on helping a client complete a People Review of their top talent and outline their succession plan. Each April they complete the People Review, evaluating their top talent on the areas of performance and potential, risk of leaving the organization, and mobility within the organization.
In working through this process with them, I’ve discovered that for most of their key employees, they don’t have a good succession plan in place. Both in regards to what would be the next step for the employee as well as who could step into the role should the employee leave the organization. Given the tight talent market right now, this is very concerning to them, and to me.
So how can companies evaluate their employees for succession planning and what steps do they need to take to ensure they have options?
- Conduct an assessment annually of your key positions. Notice I said positions and not employees. What positions within your organization are critical to the success and sustainability of your organization? What are the responsibilities of those positions? Is there a logical promotion track from one key position to another?
- Evaluate your current staff. Once you’ve identified those key positions, then take a look at the employees who currently fill those roles. Assess them on their current performance and their potential. As I’ve told each of the managers I’ve met with, just because someone ranks lower on performance and potential doesn’t mean they are a bad employee, it may just mean that they haven’t been in their current role long enough to gain the full scope of knowledge needed to be a high performer or have high potential.
- Communicate. Once you’ve assessed your key employees and determined those who could move up within your key positions if needed, have a conversation with them. There is nothing worse than creating a succession plan only to find out when the time comes that the employee doesn’t want to move up into the position you’ve designated them for. Find out where they see themselves going in the organization and make sure it aligns with the plan you created. If it doesn’t, you may need to reevaluate your plan.
- Provide training and support. After you assess the key employee’s current performance and potential and ensured that your vision and theirs match, you need to create an action plan to help them get to that next level. What areas of performance or potential do they need to strengthen in order to be successful in a new role if and when the time comes? The client I’m working with conducts Individual Development Reviews each September, but they do not tie those IDRs back to the information they gleaned through their People Review, so they are not creating an action plan or setting goals that are aimed at helping those key employees be prepared for the next level.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin
If your organization were to lose a key employee tomorrow, do you have a plan in place to respond and minimize the impact to the organization?