7 Deadly Sins of Succession Planning

Posted by Judy Fort on October 3, 2018

Young Woman learning from Older Woman

A multitude of research points to the fact that the majority of firms don’t have a viable succession planning strategy. This is really problematic when combined with some of the other trends we’re seeing. Baby boomers are continuing to leave the workforce, employee engagement continues to challenge most organizations and retention rates are falling. If you aren’t doing succession planning, how are you coping with the changing face of your workforce as older workers transition to retirement? How are you addressing the high turnover rates becoming increasingly common across so many industries?

The churn caused by leadership turnover is only one part of the issue. You need to be prepared for all types of turnover in order to keep your projects running smoothly. Have you ever lost a really key employee in the middle of a project? You probably have at some point, and if that’s the case then you know how disruptive it can be. Over-burdened and over-utilized team members will feel the strain, and if you don’t have succession plans in place, you could be adding to an already difficult situation.

So, why are we losing these key employees and what can be done to keep them? Well, although there could be a number of contributing factors, one of the most common reasons associated with the departure of top performers is a lack of career development.

What is Succession Planning?

Succession planning helps you identify and develop employees with the potential to fill key business and leadership positions within the company. Succession planning increases the availability of experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume these roles as they become available. From recruiting the right candidate to developing new leadership from within, succession planning is crucial for an organization to meet its strategic vision and goals.

 

7 Deadly Sins of Succession Planning


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Are You Committing Any of the Seven Deadly Sins? Let’s See.

Sin #1 - You Set It and Forget It

This sin quickly results in outdated plans and inappropriate strategies. People may still leave the company, availability of employees on the plan may change, and employees may gain new skills or experience. The company could undergo major change, like a merger or acquisition. There is a fluidity to business strategy that should be reflected in your people planning. 

Plans should be reviewed at least yearly and whenever changes in company direction or goals are made.  When you review plans, ensure the potential successors are still viable by taking a look at your top performers, reviewing employment records, and watching out for new talent that might be a good fit.

Sin #2 – You Have No Backup Plan

The second sin happens when your plans are too narrow.  If your plans only include one person and that person leaves, this can put you in a difficult position. Neglecting to create a backup plan restricts your ability to adjust to workforce changes.

When you review your plans, check for backup successors, and if none exist, identify some.  Re-evaluate the backup employees as you complete your regular reviews of succession plans.

Sin #3 - You Fail To Develop Successors

Once a plan is setup, it’s time to provide development opportunities to your successors. Get them ready to be successful in the potential new roll. Failing to tie your succession planning to development strategy has plenty of consequences. What happens when an employee is promoted to a leadership role that they aren’t prepared for? A weak leader can have a very negative impact on team culture. Weak leadership can also erode workforce confidence.  And for the potential successors, being moved into a role they are unprepared for is an extremely negative experience.

Analyze an employee’s skills, competencies and experiences, and look for resources, such as training courses or mentoring programs, to support those needs. Review the employee’s career path and consider lateral moves that could aid in your planning.

Sin #4 - No Manager Involvement

Managers know their employees and interact with them on a regular basis, and by leaving them out you are overlooking a good source for information.

Effective succession planning includes managers. Give them a voice and take their feedback into consideration.  This tactic not only broadens your search, but fosters engagement.  Both managers and team members feel they have a voice and are represented in the company’s planning.  It also helps managers at the team level by keeping them in touch with who is being considered for succession.

Sin #5 – You Fail to Consider Your Entire Workforce

If you only look at your identified high potential employees, you may miss hidden talent because in many cases they are typically evaluated on the basis of ‘fit’ for their current position without broadening the discussion to include other roles in the organization. Larger organizations in particular may have “unknown” employees who should be considered – the greater the number of employees, the harder it becomes to ensure you are considering all of the right people. 

So, make sure you look across the company’s entire workforce. Be sure to consider all important criteria, not just current skills, competencies and history. Look at employee goals and manager recommendations. Do any employees have a career path in place that is already providing training opportunities ideal for the succession plan?  Enlist help to discover talent throughout organization – again, give your managers and other key company employees a voice.

Sin # 6 – You Fail to Consider the Employee’s Needs

This sin can lead to engagement and retention issues, in addition to poor job satisfaction. It’s all about communication. You can’t create, implement, and maintain a succession plan in a vacuum. Your ideal candidate to become the next CEO may have very different priorities in mind for life and/or career.

Listen to what your employees say they want.  This encourages engagement, positively impacts attrition rates, improves job satisfaction, contributes to overall business success, and demonstrates support for employees’ goals & aspirations.

Sin #7 - You Keep Employees in the Dark

If employees are not aware that there are opportunities available for them within the organization, they may look outside the company.  This can lead to lack of engagement, which affects the bottom line. It may not always make sense to provide the full picture to a potential successor, but it is in your best interest to involve them to the degree that you deem appropriate.

There is a lot of debate on how involved employees should be in succession planning, but ultimately, not involving them can have negative consequences.  By telling employees they are on a plan, you show that you are considering their long-term involvement at the company and driving awareness that can motivate self-development.  You can never go wrong with more communication.

If you want to learn more, check out the Succession Planning Solution Speed Session to see Deltek Talent Management in action.

 

About the Author

Judy Fort is a member of the Deltek Solutions Engineering group and bridges the gap between technology and real world users. For a decade she has been working with diverse HR organizations helping them to achieve their goals.