Preparing the Next Generation

It’s no surprise that since 2008 organizations have cut management levels more than in past decades. And it’s fair to say that Baby Boomers, Millennial’s and Gen X’ers are competing for roles within some of the same organizations. We all know that Baby Boomers will eventually retire, let’s face it they can’t work forever. And we also know that Millennial’s and Gen X’ers are getting restless waiting for Baby Boomers to move on so they can move up!

The dilemma for organizations is how to keep your Millennial’s and  Gen X’ers engaged and contributing instead of exiting the company. The solution can be found in succession development. Succession development can be used in conjunction with succession planning but is different.

Succession planning is a focused program of keeping talent in the pipeline and it’s generally a 12 to 36 month process of preparation, not pre-selection. Large companies use succession planning as a proactive approach to allow for an individual to quickly fill a role that was left by a departing leader whether expected or unexpected.

Succession development is used by smaller companies because they have less leaders at the top and allows your good talent within the company to stay engaged and continually developing because its most likely a longer time frame for them to be able to move into a leadership position.

In his 2009 HBR Blog post, 4 Tips for Efficient Succession Planning, Marshall Goldsmith states that succession plans never developed anyone, only development experiences actually develop people. Thus the name change to succession development. He goes on to say that “plans” can create frustration because it is almost implied that the person’s name listed in the box will be the one that moves up when a leader moves on. So the focus should be on the actual development of your employees. Where does one of your brightest need to fill in skills that they may not have been able to acquire? An example might be one of your top engineers that has a great background and potential to move up but has never had the opportunity to develop sales skills which would be a key need should one of your leaders leave. You get the picture.

One way to determine who has the ability to move into a leadership role at your organization is to assess personal skills, behaviors and motivators. We recommend you use these employee assessment tools to help determine what skills need to be developed as well as determine areas of strengths for each employee. You can’t develop your people without having some sort of base line knowledge of where they are on certain skills and you’ll want to take stock every year of which skills they improved upon or gained. Your employees will be happy to list areas they would like to develop as well as areas you want them to develop. Then just ask each employee to keep track of where where they are on the development plan and use this information as part of their mid-year and annual review.

Decide now that you’ll invest in succession development for your talented employees. You’ll be glad you did in the long run and your employees will be happy to know how much you value them.