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May 6, 2014

Elements of an Effective Succession Plan

Filed under: Succession Planning6:00 am

Last week I attended SHRM’s Succession Planning training in Seattle, Washington.  It’s a new course that they have begun offering because so many members have asked for it.  I spent the day in a room with about 25 human resource professionals that are looking to begin or implement a better succession planning process in their own organizations.  They all seemed to echo many of the same challenges:

1)      Executive Buy-In: Management sees the value but does not want to invest much of their own time expecting HR to take the reins and make it happen.

Unfortunately, effective succession planning is closely tied to the strategic plan and requires the input and participation from several key sources, especially management.  Obviously, their feedback is needed on assessments, but they are also critical resources in providing coaching and mentoring to high-potentials.  Work to get the necessary buy in to support your plan, it can make all the difference.

2)      Time: Creating a solid plan and developing the processes to maintain it is very time consuming for organizations that are already stretched thin as it is.

True, succession planning takes time.  However, it is because we are stretched so thin that an untimely or unexpected departure can be so costly.  Even if you start slow and ramp your efforts up little by little, you will eventually get to where you need be.

3)      Simple: Keeping it simple is what everyone wants, but that seems to an elusive target.

The idea of a simple succession plan kept coming up.  Many have tried and failed to create a plan that was simple and easy.  Even the trainer admitted that this is very hard to do, if not unrealistic.  When you consider all of the moving parts of an effective plan, they can become complex very quickly.  However complex, they are still a necessity in today’s changing world.  Find a way to build it into your culture and make it part of everything that you do.


January 30, 2014

Do You Have a Knowledge Backup Plan?

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Hiring & Jobs,Succession Planning — Tags: 6:00 am

Highly effective leaders realize that knowledge is key to their company’s success.  They know that teams working and collaborating together can accomplish really great things.  Succession plans are generally designed to make sure there is a pipeline of talent so that nothing falls through the cracks and that transitions from one leader to the next are seamless.  Cross-training, mentoring, and the sharing of knowledge are all used to protect a company’s interests.   But, are people the best knowledge backup plan?

To illustrate this, perhaps a new project is being assigned to three employees, A, B, and C.  Perhaps, the seasoned leader of the team project is Employee A, who accepts another position within the organization.  The knowledge of the team leader is not really gone, but has shifted to another department, that doesn’t benefit the progress that has already been made on the team project, nor does it benefit Employees B and C, who’ve been left behind and now have to step up to the plate.  Well, Employees B and C realize the dynamics of their team have changed greatly without Employee A – it’s just not fun anymore.  So, Employee B decides he’s taking another job and give his notice, leaving Employee C, who has no experience on how to further the team project without the rest of the team.  Becoming disenchanted with the situation for which Employee C has found herself, she leaves and joins Employee B at his new gig.

All that knowledge and all that progress and all that time is now for naught.  What is an employer to do to protect their future success?

  • Encourage employees to share knowledge with each other.  Creating operating processes and procedures that will benefit someone who hasn’t been in the organization long, and that will help knowledge to live on.
  • Plan for turnover.  We know employees simply don’t stay put.  Make it a priority to communicate regularly with employees and have a solid plan for when they leave.
  • Assume that when any part of a team leaves, the others will be considered flight risks.
  • Reassure others on the team that you are immediately getting a replacement for the vacant position to reduce panic and restore order.

Do you have a knowledge backup plan?

Source:  Corlett, Bob.  “The Hidden Danger in Employee Turnover (and how to protect yourself).”  The Business Journals.  See article here.



December 11, 2013

Cultivating Humility for a Competitive Advantage

Filed under: Succession Planning2:48 pm

Business leaders today must have a competitive advantage to simply maintain stability in the ever-changing, fast-paced environment.  Usually, it is a new product using the latest technology, and the ambitious goal of staying one step ahead of industry competitors.  What if you could gain a competitive advantage by looking inward at your leaders’ attributes – in particular, humility?

Research published by the University of Washington, Foster School of Business identified humility as “a three-part personality trait consisting of an accurate view of the self, teachability, and appreciation of others’ strengths.”  Humble leaders were found to be those individuals behind the scenes, instead of searching for the limelight.  They provide gentle guidance for employees and let their talent and hard work speak for themselves.

Michael Johnson, co-author of the research study and associate professor of management at the Foster School, stated, “Our study suggests that a ‘quieter’ leadership approach – listening, being transparent, being aware of limitations, and appreciating follower strengths and contributions – is an effective way to engage employees.”  Also noteworthy, the study found that humility can compensate for lower levels of intelligence, giving it strength as a better predictor of performance.

Imagining that humility makes for a successful leader is somewhat difficult because not everyone is born naturally humble.  Johnson pointed out that humility, like patience and other virtues, can be developed.  If individuals focus on the three-part personality traits aforementioned, they will find themselves being much more effective in many areas of life.  Make “humility” a desired leadership quality and add it to your list of objectives for success.

Source:  Smith, Michelle M.  “Humble Leadership:  The Research Shows It’s a Competitive Advantage.”


March 6, 2013

Plan Your Organization’s Future Now

Filed under: Succession Planning6:00 am

What do the following occupations have in common?

  • Towncrier
  • Pony Express rider
  • Telegraph operator
  • Milkman
  • Switchboard operator
  • Gas pump attendant
  • Bowling pinsetter
  • Elevator operator
  • Lamplighter
  • Keypunch operator
  • Soda jerk
  • Iceman
  • Typesetter
  • Court jester

All these jobs are obsolete.  They have disappeared from the occupational outlook.  Most have been replaced by technological advances where manual human services are no longer needed.  They are part of a do-it-yourself revolution.  Years ago these were occupations we couldn’t live without, especially the soda jerk!  Seriously though, at one point in history, these were critical jobs.  These jobs enhanced our communication, travel, entertainment, and our livelihood.  No one would have believed that would ever change.

That is the key – change.  In order to stay competitive and profitable, organizations must change.  What about your organization?  Do you have jobs that will likely disappear in the next two years, five years, ten years?  Planning for change is essential.  Every organization needs to perform regular analytics on jobs they currently support and determine if they are likely to change to the point that new knowledge, skills, and abilities will be needed.  Once this is defined, develop career paths within the organization that will help employees obtain the necessary training in logical progression for the career path leading to these potentially new or modified jobs.

Communicate with employees to discover their desired career goals.  If an employee doesn’t see growth or progress in their job, they likely won’t stay.  Next, help your employees by developing and implementing programs to assess their potential to grow within the organization.  Your future is what you make it and your employees must shine if it is to be bright!


February 6, 2013

Leaders Growing Leaders

Filed under: Succession Planning6:00 am

Every organization has a leader, but to be a great leader one must be able to share their knowledge with others in a way that preserves their dignity and acknowledges their unique talents and intellect.  To illustrate, if every time your child asks you a question and you answer it directly, they will be slower to learn basic reasoning skills and the ability to think logically.  Many times, asking them a question back, causes them to pause and think on their own.  It may be faster to simply give them an answer, and less frustrating to them, but the lasting benefits of creating opportunities to teach prove to be invaluable both to a child and to an organization.

Derek Irvine wrote regarding leadership development in his article Developing Leaders:  A Little Frustration Can Help Them Grow that, “wise senior leaders know others will never develop into true leaders themselves unless they learn the process for finding the answers themselves.”  This aptitude will create future leaders who not only comprehend the organization’s strategic goals, but will be able to envision the process to make them realities.

We want to know – what are some things you do to develop leaders in your organization?  Send us your ideas and what has worked for you so we can share with others.


September 23, 2011

HR Fact Friday: 25% of Credit Unions Do Not Have Succession Plan

Filed under: Retirement,Succession Planning11:30 am

Succession planning at its very essence is a process to ensure that the right people are in the right places at the right time. A main goal of succession planning is to, as much as possible, fill vacancies with internal candidates that know and understand the culture of the organization and whom the board has a true understanding of character, performance history and work ethics.

CUNA’s 2010-2011 Complete Credit Union Staff Salary Survey Report shows 58% of Credit Union’s have a CEO succession plan, 16% plan to by year’s end, but 25% don’t have one at all. 25%! Add to this another sobering statistic—by 2016, 60% of the credit union CEOs will be retiring and the supply of leadership candidates will not meet the demand.

And this is just an example of one small vertical industry. The trends are the same in many industries as baby boomers reach retirement age.  

At the risk of oversimplification, the five steps in developing a meaningful succession plan are:

  1. Identify positions and estimate timeframe of projected transitions
  2. Identify succession candidates
  3. Implement development plans for candidates to acquire and enhance required skill sets
  4. Assign mentors and periodically evaluate readiness of candidates
  5. Continually review plan with CEO and Board

It’s no wonder talent management vendors are hopping on the bandwagon and scrambling to provide succession planning services. HRN has been providing succession planning consulting and plan development services for over 10 years.


November 5, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Companies Unprepared for Succession at the Top

Filed under: Succession Planning — Tags: , , 6:00 am

More than half of survey respondents from U.S. and Canadian companies could not immediately name a successor to their organization’s CEO, according to research conducted by executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles and Stanford University.

The research conducted last spring, surveyed 140 CEOs and directors at large and mid-cap public companies in the U.S. and Canada, with 10% of respondents coming from large private companies.

Other findings:

  • While 69% of respondents said that a CEO successor neeeds to be “ready now” to step into the shoes of a the departing CEO, only 54% are grooming an executive for this position.
  • 39% of respondents cited having “zero” viable internal candidates. This points to a lack of talent management and succession planning.
  • On average, boards spend only two hours a year on CEO succession planning.
  • Only 50% have a written document detailing the skills required for the next CEO.
  • 71% of internal candidates know they are in the formal talent development pool, but there is regular communication – typically yearly or biyearly – for only 50% of these internal candidates.
  • While 48% of respondents said they have an extremely strong or very strong understanding of the capabilities of internal candidates, only 19% have extremely well-established or very well-established external benchmarks to measure those candidates’ skills.
  • Furthermore, once the new CEO is installed, only 50% of companies provide onboarding or transition support for him or her.

Source: HR Magazine, October 2010, Theresa Minton-Eversole, pg 22


April 11, 2008

HR Fact Friday: Succession Planning Defines Readiness for Change

Filed under: Succession Planning11:34 am

Novations Group, a global consulting firm based in Boston, released the results of a succession planning survey conducted in December, 2007.  2,556 senior HR and training & development executives were polled regarding the current state and future direction of their succession planning programs.

Three-fourths of large organizations perform succession planning; among that number, 63% focus on the senior level, but 46% have broadened that to now include mid-level managers. (more…)