July 27, 2017

Succession Planning: Don’t Overlook Your Most Precious Assets- Current Employees!

By Kay Linder, Partner and Practice Lead, Healthcare IT & Innovation

Employee turnover in today’s workplace has reached a new level of volatility. The average employee will change jobs up to 15 times during his or her career, seeking better pay, more benefits, or additional challenges; additionally, high-performing college grads with work experience are constantly being recruited by your competition. Savvy leaders must always be on their toes — and prepared for employee turnover.

Executives sometimes don’t understand the urgency of establishing a succession plan — a strategic process to replace their best employees — until key team members inevitably leave or retire, when it’s already too late. On the other hand, many companies that do attempt succession plans can execute them haphazardly, without thinking critically about all of the aspects involved. The result is often internal strife — even reorganization.

Although hiring externally can play a key role in succession plans, successful organizations are often able to discover and promote peak performers already in their ranks. But are companies prepared to leverage internal hiring strategies to achieve peak succession? Apparently not.

2016 study by LinkedIn Solutions states that although companies are investing maximal effort to recruit through social media and referrals, internal hiring strategies rank “significantly lower on the priority scale.” Only 12 percent of recruiters and hiring leaders say they have a “well-defined program for advancement opportunities.” Additionally, “less than one-third say that internal hiring is central to their strategy. Those who are concerned about retention will prioritize internal recruiting.”

Clearly, a majority of hiring leaders are potentially squandering the vast storehouse of talent within their own company. Executives often rely heavily on critical team members without any back-up plan or succession strategy for when those employees inevitably move on. And retention strategies, while important, aren’t enough: statistics show that no matter what incentives companies offer, today’s employees at every level are always on the lookout for new opportunities.

How can you avoid making such a key mistake in succession planning? The solution starts with a consistent, intentional investment in your team – both in time and resources.

Get to Know Your Team

Effective succession plans make room for leaders to spend quality time creating and establishing mentor relationships with key individuals in an organization. Get to know their desires, goals, and challenges, both personally and professionally; from there, work with them to develop an educational development plan that is sustainable, measurable, and realistic. This investment isn’t about pushing your agenda: it’s about building a deep and lasting team of top talent.

Communicate External Decisions

Inevitably, some of the best hiring decisions will take your company outside its corporate walls to recruit ideal candidates. Employees recognize the reality as well as the benefits of external hiring (after all, they were all once external hires themselves); however, it’s important to communicate the specific reasons for bringing in outside hires while maintaining growth plans internally for all team members. By investing in communication efforts and demonstrating authentic interest in professional development, executives show employees that they haven’t forgotten about them. This will avoid an all-too-common scenario: an underappreciated employee stewing at his or her desk, thinking “I could do that job so much better!”

Nurture Career Honesty

Under an effective succession plan, employees should be made to feel comfortable and safe sharing career goals with their managers – even if that goal includes moving on to a new opportunity. The job of management is to nurture, not punish, employees who want to spread their wings, which sometimes means that employees will fly away. Exhaust every opportunity to speak with them before they start interviewing to understand their desire to consider leaving. If a leader waits until a team member is resigning to try to talk them out of it, their pleas will ring hollow; what’s more, even if that person stays, it will most likely be temporary — and that relationship might be irreparably damaged. Often, managers can retain key staff by better understanding their needs and attempting to meet those needs through revised job duties or increased incentives.

Numbers don’t lie: change is inevitable and employees will come and go – with or without a strategic succession plan. Will you invest time and energy into your team, or will you watch chaos unfold from the sidelines? It’s your move!