I was the VP of HR for a fairly large organization several years ago when the terrible unexpected happened.You always think, “This can’t be happening to us” only to find that it can and does happen. What is it that happened?
The second in command, who had been brought in to run the company when the founder retired, was killed in a terrible car accident. No one was prepared for the aftermath of that tragedy – especially the owner of the company as he had to regroup and rethink his retirement plans. The rest of the company also had to regroup and come to grip with a terrible loss and uncertainty as to what would happen next.
Can organizations prepare for this type of loss? You can never be fully prepared for a tragic loss, however a succession plan will go a long way in minimizing the effect of loss. The loss in this case was an untimely death, but many organizations today face the risk of losing a seasoned executive through age, retirement, and even hiring away by a competitor. It is therefore important to consider the issue of succession NOW rather than later. This will help with staffing changes and minimal disruption to not only the internal business operations but even to the external marketplace.
There are some key steps an organization can take to set up an effective succession plan.
1. Make sure you have identified the skills and competencies you need in a particular position. This might include the ability to delegate responsibility, think strategically, ability to make decisions, etc. While some think of this step as time-consuming, it is an important first step.
2. Make sure the top management team is on board and directing the plan. A succession plan is only successful if it comes from the top. Remember, some managers may resist establishing a plan and need to brought on board. This may happen by making them an important part of the process.
3. Develop a pool of employees that you can identify that have the potential to grow. The challenge is to find, develop, and encourage these employees. They need to be continually trained and given opportunities to advance. You need to make sure they want the added responsibilities and if not, they should be removed from the pool being considered.
4. Understand and identify skill and knowledge gaps. Work to fill those gaps by determining needs to happen with an individual or individuals to move them into new positions. Help these employees prepare for higher level positions.
5. Encourage employees to be proactive and identify themselves as possible candidates. The individual is the final person to determine availability and capability. When in doubt, ask them.
Don’t be caught unprepared – it can be detrimental to the whole organization.Have a plan and be prepared to keep it current – just in case.
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