I’m still getting in some great feedback with my series on corporate culture so I’m going to extend the series for a few more posts! In my last post I walked you through the in’s and out’s of the exit interview process. Continuing with that line of thought, some times the need for an exit interview highlights a failure that might have been made earlier in that employee’s life with your company. Some times people just move on to a new opportunity and it has nothing to do with your corporate culture one way or the other.
With that being said, the need for a transparent succession and on-boarding strategy is more important than ever as the modern employee pursues a new opportunity every 4.7 years on average. When done right, succession plans will show your veteran employees that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for all of their hard work! Today, we’re going to drill into succession planning to help you keep your staffing transitions as seamless as possible.
Step 1: Grooming
It’s easy to get so caught up in the minutiae of what your succession plan needs to look like on paper that you forget about all of the human elements that are involved. If you ask me, any succession plan worth its salt has got to start with grooming. Here’s what I would suggest as a starting point:
- Take a close look at each entry level member on your staff and start jotting down the personality traits you witness first hand
- Meet with their direct supervisor(s) and ask for their take on that team member’s personality and skills
- Transparency is critical when it comes to grooming so when you’re done collecting data, meet with each entry level employee and share your thoughts and findings with each individually
- Start an ongoing discussion on what role they would like to play at the company going forward
- Prepare them for the roles they’ll fill in the future by letting them shadow the person (or people) currently in those roles
- Incorporate additional training courses, seminars, or conferences to build their base of knowledge prior to them taking on a new role
- Watch (and document!) any other traits that surface as you hand them ever more complex problems to solve
If someone isn’t 100% sure where they might fit moving forward, feel free to make recommendations based on the strengths you see in them. For example, it’s not generally a good idea to promote your best sales rep to a sales manager position because the skills don’t always translate. However, if you’ve got someone on your team with a knack for conflict resolution and big picture thinking, that’s a much better fit for consideration as a manager!
Step 2: Take Advantage of Industry Trends
There will be times when you’ve got team members who exhibits a unique skill set that just doesn’t fit any of your current roles. When this happens, it’s worth considering if you should expand the scope of a current role or even create a new position where those skills would drive things. In either scenario, the idea is to keep your existing talent engaged and allow your company to grow with them.
First and foremost, this approach allows you to take advantage of trends as they emerge in your industry. In addition, this is the type of company culture that gives you a shot at attracting the most talented and sought after candidates. When you demonstrate to your team that you’re there to support their desire to get better every day, it’s going to be noticed.
Step 3: Promote Then Backfill
As veteran team members move up in the ranks at your company, make sure that they are heavily involved in hiring and mentoring their replacement. Remember, the veteran team member will know more about what their position requires than anyone else. This means they’re best positioned to pass on the expectations and helpful insights that make for a seamless transition.
If anyone performs a particular task for an extended period of time, they’re going to burn out so generally, I recommend establishing a growth track for every position at your company. Here are a couple of things to bake into the process:
- Create some educated estimates how long someone should be at a certain position before monotony will start to set in. If you’re not sure where to start, tap into the source – your existing team!
- If there are no promotion opportunities immediately available, consider rotating in some new and interesting projects for your entry and mid level staff. Go back to the personality traits and skills that you’ve identified and allow them to choose from projects that align for them.
- If someone really enjoys what they do and have expressed a desire to stay right where they are, that’s OK too! However, you’ve still got to find other ways to keep them engaged or you risk them feeling overlooked and undervalued.
If you did things right in step 1, you should have a constant source of talent from within for promotions!
Step 4: Prepare a Backup Plan
Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan and you may get caught holding a bag of bricks. It’s tough to prep a full backup plan for every position so, instead, spend most of your cycles on fleshing out a plan for each of your key positions. Obviously a C level or a high level exec is tougher to replace so the backup plan there needs to be more complex.
When a sudden void gives you lemons, make lemonade by addressing a legacy skills gap. If a position, product, or approach, has gotten a bit stale, look for someone with fresh ideas. It may be someone already on staff or it could be an outsider, but give added weight to individuals that seem interested in the challenges that come with change.
Above all else, remember the importance of planning things ahead of time. You don’t want to dig a well when you’re thirsty, and you don’t want to form your succession plan the day that someone moves on. In the next post in this series I’m going to focus on how you can on-board your new hires and set them up for success during the first 90 days, which is so critical.
Also, I’ll be discussing this topic in greater detail when I sit in on a panel discussion on company culture next week so make sure to register!