It’s a common assumption that most organizations don’t do succession planning. IMHO, the reasons include the high level of administration involved with succession planning and the difficulty in identifying and developing talent. It’s hard enough to figure out what the business world will look like in three years, much less what the organization’s talent needs will be.
Before I share with you a couple of takeaways from the seminar, I want to talk a little about the seminar itself. I had never participated in a regularly scheduled virtual program before, so it was a new experience. The program instructor, Mike Deblieux SHRM-SCP, was visible via webcam but the participants were not. We would communicate via chat. As an introvert, I really liked the format. I could be an active part of the chat when I wanted to. I could also sit back and take in the conversation. So for those of you who are more reflective during learning, this could be a great option. The session is also offered as an in-person program for individuals who prefer that experience.
Okay, back to takeaways. I don’t want to give away the entire seminar but the big takeaway for me was the concept of telling your succession planning story. Organizations put a tremendous emphasis on their branding story, product/services story, or their vision for the company story. But what about their succession planning story?
Forget for a second the whole “do we or don’t we tell a candidate they’re a part of the plan” conversation. If we think about what’s involved in succession planning, there’s still plenty to tell in your story.
- How does the organization decide what the critical jobs are?
- What method does the organization use to identify talent?
- What’s the company philosophy about investing in talent?
The answers to these questions create a story that employees and candidates want to know. The company’s succession planning story makes the process future-focused. During the seminar, Mike gave us a recommended activity that we could use to jump start our creative process and gain a new perspective where succession planning was concerned.
Every three to five years, pack up your office on a Friday. Come in as a new manager on Monday. Rearrange your furniture. Put away your stuff. Get a little uncomfortable. Experience what it feels like to be a new manager within your organization.
Maybe if we remember what it feels like to be a new manager – unpacking things, trying to get settled in, figuring out a work environment that will make us productive – it will help us craft that succession planning story.
And it will help us keep the company’s succession planning story alive. During the seminar, one of the participants talked about using post-it notes as a way to discuss talent readiness in succession planning. I thought it was terrific symbolism. An employee can be added, removed or moved in the succession plan as simply as adding, removing or moving a post-it from one document to another.
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Our succession plans should be fluid documents and our succession planning story should be as well. It should be a story that aligns with the company strategy and brand. As those things change, so will the story.
Maybe the reason that companies don’t do succession planning is because they just haven’t figured out their story. Because once you have the story, then the planning part falls into place.
P.S. I would absolutely recommend taking SHRM’s succession planning seminar. The seminar is offered virtually and in several cities around the U.S. You can find a complete listing of seminars, dates, times, and locations on the SHRM Education website. Also, remember that SHRM seminars are pre-approved for recertification credit.
Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) logo used with permission.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the Flora Icelandic HR Management Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland3