The following is a guest interview, written and contributed by Janine Nicole Truitt, Chief Innovations Officer for Talent Think Innovations, LLC
Succession Planning is an important component of the health of a business. In order to be a sustainable enterprise you not only need to have a tried and true method for attracting and hiring people who are aligned with your mission, vision, and values, but you also need to have a mechanism in place to retain and develop your workforce to meet the organization’s needs for future growth and expansion. In addition, succession planning ensures that information, protocol, and data don’t live and die in a vacuum or with a single person thwarting the dissemination of legacy practice and knowledge.
How can HR’s role in succession planning be made more effective?
Succession Planning is about more than gathering up your favorite group of high-potentials to be groomed for future roles. There is a lack of connectivity between the time someone starts with us and what happens during the course of the employee’s lifecycle. For example, if someone starts to work for you today, at what point do you start assessing their skills or lack thereof to set a career plan in place? When do you start engaging employees about their aspirations for future roles and discussing how you see them contributing to the future needs of the organization? There needs to be a process for canvassing your employee’s career path or trajectory along with learning and developmental milestones so there is an eye for the pools of individuals who will support future needs. I have always seen Talent Management as an emerging function within HR that could exist solely to focus on how employees move throughout the organization and that orchestrates the workforce plan for present and future workforce needs.
How can the succession planning process be improved to see better results?
Succession Planning can be improved with planning and being proactive. The current state of affairs in many organizations is that they focus most of their resources on hiring, and if they are somewhat progressive they may have a lens for retention. Future roles are seldom planned for, but rather discussed just-in-time. A critical role is left vacant by a retirement, untimely death or departure, and everyone internally scrambles to see if there is anyone who can fill the role only to find there are significant skill gaps. The usual excuse is the workforce is unskilled and unprepared. The real story is the organization was unprepared.
The way you get ahead of it is:
- Get out of the mode of just-in time workforce planning and recruitment. Start having proactive discussions about both present and future succession needs.
- Start adding a few succession planning related milestones or objectives to the overall strategic plan every year. This will keep everyone involved accountable for ensuring that the succession plan is visible and acted upon.
- Create a protocol for off-boarding transitioning leadership and onboarding new leaders so there is no knowledge, operational or procedural gaps.
What kind of Learning and Development program should you have in place?
You should have an adaptable L&D program in place. That means you should be creating training that not only meets the business objectives and regulatory requirements of the organization, but it should also cater to the interests of your workforce. The way people learn and how they choose to consume information is shifting rapidly. Having a once-size-fits-all L&D strategy will not suffice moving forward. Every HR department and C-Suite should be considering the following:
- How do your employees learn?
- What are your employees learning and development needs and wants?
- Where can you allow for some creativity in how people develop themselves?
- What do your career paths look like? How can you involve your workforce in rethinking employee mobility whether upward or lateral?
- What processes, plans, people, resources, and technology do you have to have in place to ensure that no knowledge, skill, ability, or competency escapes the organization?
- How do you make succession planning data actionable?
This is an area is where having the right technology becomes imperative. There is no efficient way I can think of for collecting and analyzing retention and succession planning data without having a solution in place that not only collects this data, but illuminates everything from employees you should be watching, to specific milestones for when to take actions within the succession planning process.
Making succession planning data actionable is no different than any other data. The repayment of receiving insight and data from your workforce is to decide what the data is telling you. Once you are clear on the story the data is telling it is up to you to take action. If the data illuminates bottlenecks in the succession planning process, you have a duty to examine them and remove the barriers. If there is adverse impact to certain groups of people in trying to rise up the leadership ranks, you have a duty to acknowledge the impact and set a plan in motion to not only change any unfavorable practices, but to communicate that change.
What makes up succession planning?
Succession Planning entails the identification and development of people within your organization who are being prepared to fill critical roles in the future. Before you can begin identifying who will fill critical roles, you need to first know what the needs will be. Even if you don’t know precisely what will be needed in the future, you should be able to forecast based on some of the realities and assumptions you have at your disposal today. It is as simple as taking a comprehensive look at a subset of critical roles you have today and then asking some questions:
- How important will these critical roles be 5 years out? Will the role need to change, shift or be eliminated?
- Who do you have filling the role currently? Are they ideal for the position? From here, you can start to model what has been successful with this person in the role and what needs to change.
- What are the timetables you are working with? This is where you get real about retirements, potential for attrition, plans for expansion etc.
- Who do you have currently that either could step into critical roles with or without training? This is where you need to know who your people are and what they are capable of. Hint: Not everyone who should or could fill a critical role comes in the pretty package of a high potential, be dedicated to taking a closer look at your workforce.
- How will you communicate the plan and begin the process of knowledge transfer between current and future incumbents? The goal here is for smooth transitions for all parties involved and continuity of normal operations and productivity.
- Who is succession planning important for?
Succession Planning is mostly important to the C-Suite. Anytime someone leaves an organization there is a disruption to the flow and continuity of operation. That impact is compounded when the loss is a senior leader or someone who fills a critical role within the organization. More than a loss of productivity, you see impact in morale, engagement, consumer concern, and trust when an organization loses a senior or otherwise visible leader. Having a succession plan doesn’t just safeguard you against all attrition, but it ensures that you have people who are developed, trained, prepared to step into one of these roles so there is no loss of productivity or a hindrance to operation due to both anticipated and unforeseen departures.
It is the goal of every business to be not only profitable and successful in the present, but to be sustainable over the long haul. Businesses who get ahead of the inevitable losses to their leadership teams and workforces are ones who understand the important role people play in the business remaining financially-healthy. It is here that a succession plan doesn’t just become a nice-to-have tool, but an imperative solution to ensuring you are never in an operational void.
Janine N. Truitt Biography
Janine is the Owner/Chief Innovations Officer for Talent Think Innovations, LLC, a business strategy and management consulting firm. Her career spans fourteen years in HR and Talent Acquisition that has taken her through the world of pharmaceuticals, healthcare, staffing and R&D. Janine is a dynamic speaker, entrepreneur, and an important and respected voice bringing both a human touch and business savvy to the companies and businesses she works with.
It is through the trials and tribulations of her career travels and her passion for Business, Technology, Digital Transformation and Talent Management that she created Talent Think Innovations in January 2013. Her aim is to provide practical and sustainable solutions, programs and strategies that are a catalyst for innovation. Through her work she is using her experience to get businesses and individuals from surviving to thriving allowing them to succeed in an age of rapid transformation.
Janine doesn’t just preach innovation-she lives it. A globally-known figure in Human Resources and Business, she has contributed for: Performance I Create, Switch & Swift, TLNT.com, and IRIS.xyz and more. Janine is a rare professional who isn’t afraid to tackle the obstacles and issues facing us as a society and global marketplace. She has been quoted by HBR, Bustle, The Cut, Atlanta BlackStar, Newsday, SHRM, USA Today and has been featured by Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Black Enterprise and Ebony Magazines. In 2013, Mrs. Truitt was also named one of the Top 100 Most Social Human Resources Experts on Twitter by Huffington Post and one of 50+ Unstoppable Women in HR Tech by Clear Company. Additionally, she was a part of the first-ever IBM + Purematter VIP Futurist Project. Janine is currently in the process of transitioning her knowledge and work in HR into a technology company that will address the challenges the differently-abled community has in becoming gainfully employed. She proves that humility, innovation and practical thinking has value and is fast becoming the new business imperative.
Visit her blog “The Aristocracy of HR”. Follow her tweets on Twitter @CzarinaofHR. Catch her in action every Thursday at 10pm EST on her Periscope show: Ask Czarina Live and on AnchorFM for her “Growth on my Terms” podcast: anchor.fm/growthonmyterms