What's so important about Succession Planning?

#1 of 9 in our weekly Succession Planning blog post series:

Our guest blogger, Paul Riley is life-long learner of Organizational Leadership and Change who applies systems thinking and community development principles to help people work more effectively together within the complex human systems we create.

Succession planning has become a hot topic lately as organizations are preparing for a mass exodus of baby boomers from the workforce. Their impending retirement is already having a major impact on workforce capacity. Vacancies in senior positions are on the rise, and demographics indicate that there are statistically fewer people available to replace them. But there are more reasons that succession planning should be a part of your organization’s strategy.

The most important reason is that we rely on staff to carry out our missions, provide services and products, and meet our organizations’ goals. What would happen to your mission and organizational goals if key staff were to leave? How would your ability to deliver services and products be impacted? Succession planning helps to ensure that your organization has the right people in the right positions at the right time.

Although employers often use words like “loyalty” and “stability” to recruit quality candidates, employees understand that nothing is carved in stone with regard to their future employment with any one particular employer. The company’s bottom line often takes priority over loyalty when it comes to employment decisions. For this reason, there’s no longer a stigma associated with “employer-hopping.” In fact, we’re now referring to hopping around as a “portfolio career,” which sounds much more intentional and strategic. Employees can take their skills and knowledge and match their portfolios to a particular employer’s needs at any given time. Because workers are more mobile, organizations are competing to recruit and keep talented employees. Succession planning helps employers identify, develop, and retain top performers.

Due to the growth of the global market and global competition, as well as the recent economic crisis, companies are restructuring more frequently and more rapidly than ever before. This creates gaps in leadership at all levels of organizations. Therefore, organizations need to move away from traditional “management succession planning” models that are designed to meet promotion needs and often neglect to address leadership gaps at the middle and lower levels of the organization. Instead, we should focus on “technical succession planning,” by creating processes and systems to transfer specialized knowledge and experience at all levels of the organization. Supporting knowledge transfer perpetuates the collective corporate culture, institutional memory, and tacit knowledge within the organization, which are key ingredients for a sustainable future.

To learn more about how you can implement an effective succession planning program in your organization stay tuned for # 2 in this series – The 7 principles of successful Succession Planning.