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Strategic Succession Planning Is a Must

Strategic success planning is a must

If your institution is experiencing the effects of the Great Resignation, then strategic succession planning is a must. Our clients across the nation experience the challenges that come from the transition between the legacy employees and the younger generation moving into all positions of the organization. The key to a successful transition is to have a strategic succession plan for all positions in the institution.

Below are five strategic steps you can take to successfully transition successors into their new positions and keep legacy employees happy in their last months with your institution:

1.      Choose Successors Wisely.

The first step before you even start the succession planning process is to choose the specific successors for each key position wisely. Start by asking these questions:

  • Who is retiring in our organization within the 12-24 months? Make a list with name, title, department, approximate retirement date. Often, you will find out through casual conversations. You can also ask everyone the same question during the performance review: Where do you see yourself in the next 3-5 years?
  • Are those retiring occupying leadership positions?
  • Are other individuals in key positions throughout the institution who possess unique knowledge retiring?
  • Add the following columns to your list: Immediate Successor (in case of an unexpected departure or death), and Strategic Successor (the planned successor). Enter the name of the potential successor on each column. It is acceptable to enter more than one employee who will fulfill only one of the functions the current employee is performing in their current role.

2.      Update Job Descriptions.

Now that you have your list completed, it’s time to focus on job descriptions. The top benefits of establishing job descriptions are to:

  • Establish accountability so each employee knows exactly what they’re responsible for.
  • Clarify roles so everyone knows what others do in the company.
  • Ensure jobs are classified properly based on federal and state labor laws.
  • Include your organization’s core values as a best practice. Doing so prompts each employee to assess if their core values align with the organization’s.

3.      Formalize Performance Review Process.

Now that you have job descriptions established, it’s time to hold employees accountable to perform the jobs you hired them to do. Your employees deserve to know how they’re doing and their potential career opportunities within your company.

The performance review process starts with an employee self-evaluation to assess how they feel they performed their job in the past year, what training they received and what they want to learn in the upcoming year, what other areas they may be interested in learning about, and where they see opportunities to improve. Providing employees’ input to managers help them to write a meaningful performance review.

Lastly, as a best practice, have the “money conversation” separately from the actual performance review meeting. This takes away the anxiety of the employee wanting the manager to “get to the raise, please.” Both parties can then focus on truly evaluating the employee’s performance and planning for their future with the company.

4.      Establish Clear Accountabilities and Expectations.

The next step is to establish clear accountabilities for both the person leaving and the designated successor. Create milestones during the time they work on the formal transition of duties. Depending on the position, the transition should start anywhere from 3 months before departure to two years before the person retires such as in the case of the President or CEO.

The person leaving or retiring is accountable to transition all the duties that are unique to the position and that only that person knows. The successor is accountable to learn and put into practice the new responsibilities within a specific timeframe. In the case of a CFO position, for example, where there are tasks that are only done quarterly, you need more time to ensure the successor has enough opportunities to practice. Of course, you should also have other backups to assist the successor with the new duties after the employee retiring leaves.

If you are promoting from within, then you also need to create a succession plan for the employee moving into the new role who’s position is now vacant.

5.      Implement Mentoring Program.

There is another aspect of the succession planning that is extremely important too: Mentoring the successor. For example, if an experienced Ag lender is retiring, it is important to mentor the successor on how to deal with the various customers’ loans as well as their individual relationships. The retiring employee must transfer the “knowledge of the customer relationship” to the successor in the best way possible, so your customers have a seamless transition.

Successors can have more than one mentor in their new role. For example, if a successor is transitioning to the Director of IT or CIO type position, the successor may need a technology mentor and a leadership mentor depending on the person’s leadership experience.

If you want a successful transition and positive experience for both the person leaving and the successor, then strategic succession planning is a must. Going through these steps above will ensure you have a good base to start from. I hope these ideas help you in your succession planning journey for your organization.

Is Your Organization Designed for YOU to Succeed?

Is your organization designed for you to succeed

Most people I know in the workplace want to be successful; but is your organization designed for you to succeed? Organizational Design is a hot topic these days although it may be referred to as organizational structure or simply the “Org Chart.” Your career success depends mostly on you; and it also depends on the opportunities and work environment your employer offers you.

During my career’s journey as a leader and now as a consultant for community banks and credit unions across the nation, I observe each institution’s “organizational design.” It is amazing to discover that many employees are in their jobs simply because they’ve been with the organization for many years. They do whatever job the company wants/needs them to do without regards to what their talents are. Similarly, employees end up in certain jobs just because they can’t or won’t do any other job and the employer allows it because of their loyalty to long-term employees.

This situation is detrimental to both the employee and the employer. Employees who are assigned a job to do without the right talent, may feel incompetent and inadequate. On the other hand, employers may feel they are being held hostage by an employee who is not willing to learn a new job. Employers should take the responsibility to assess their talent and design their organization based on their needs matched to the talent represented in their staff. At the same time, I encourage you to take charge of your own career and thus your personal success.

Below are strategies to help you take charge of your own career and discover if your organization is designed for you to succeed:

Discover Your Talents

I strongly believe that employees must first find their talents and maximize them by using them in their jobs. Taking personal talent assessments can help you. One is the StrengthsFinder 2.0 which provides you with your top five strengths (out of 34 themes of strengths) after taking the assessment. Another option is to simply write down the things and activities that you do well and enjoy.

Learn Your Organization’s Design

Is your company’s reporting structure flat (meaning, few top leaders with lots of direct reports)? Is your organizational design multi-layer (meaning, there are so many layers from where you are to the top in any division that it may take you years to get there)? Most companies share their Org Chart on the Intranet or in their Employee Manual. You can also request it from your HR department.

Get to Know Your Boss

Does your direct manager allow you to use your talents? Is he or she involved in the everyday running of the company? Or are they distant and you hardly ever see him/her? Getting to know your direct manager is important if you want to create new opportunities or grow within your current job. Start with a recurring meeting and then build upon it, discovering who they are and what motivates them.

Be Flexible and Open

Be open to move to other jobs—even as a lateral move—just to get additional experience. Acquiring new skills and experience will help you achieve your desired promotion later. Also, be flexible as to what you get to do within your job. Sometimes doing something a little outside your job description will help you discover something new you really enjoy.

Communicate With Leadership

It is important to meet the leadership of your organization to learn about other areas. A totally different division may inspire your interest just by getting to know their leader who shared about it with you during a casual conversation. If you find yourself interested in moving to a different division, ensure you communicate with your existing boss, so they’re not caught by surprise. Most leaders want you to succeed and will open new doors for you when you have a healthy relationship.

Create Your Own Opportunities

Knowing your own talents combined with the knowledge of your organization’s design and having a relationship with your manager are all crucial to pursue new opportunities. In addition to being open to new doors that may open up along your journey, you can also create brand new opportunities. For example, if you see a need in your department and you feel you have the experience, skills, and talents to meet those needs, then go for it. Propose the new job to management. The worst that can happen is that you don’t get the job but at least you know you tried.

Is your organization designed for you to succeed? If the answer is no even after implementing all these strategies, then it may be time for you to look at other companies where you can use and maximize your talents. In the end, remember that you lead your own career.


Books by Marcia Malzahn