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Successful Succession Planning for 2013

A mentor stands behind a protege as part of succession planning

The New Year is a time of change for organizations as much as it is for individuals. In fact, certain individuals’ decisions to pursue new opportunities, such as those of executives, can send shockwaves through an organization, especially going into 2013. Over the next five years, about a third of Canada’s workforce will be retiring, leaving a shortfall of skilled workers to fill the void. That’s why, now more than ever, it’s important to implement solid succession planning. How? It starts by doing the following:

  • Look internally

    All too often, organizations jump to the conclusion that an external candidate is the best choice, particularly when it comes to replacing a CEO. However, very often there are outstanding candidates already working within the organization, and it’s important to take notice of those individuals and retain them – especially in the coming years when competition for top talent will become extremely heated. To do this, make your employees aware of their potential for advancement. When employees know they have a bright future at your organization, it motivates them both to stay and to perform better – and the better they perform, the better you’ll be able to see their potential for upper management. Still, it’s important to keep the atmosphere at work congenial. When a top-tier position is up for grabs, the internal competition can become venomous, so it’s best to turn to a recruitment firm that can keep the environment clear of toxins, such as nepotism and duplicity, while searching for your organization’s rightful rising star.

  • Look externally, too

    Despite your best efforts, it’s very possible you may not find anyone within your organization that’s ready to fill the shoes of a top executive. That’s why good succession planning always includes both an internal and an external search. Even if the outgoing incumbent had great successes during their tenure, times change, and a fresh perspective from outside the organization may be critical to its future prosperity. Looking externally also allows you to use different search strategies. For instance, if you have enough time, you can bring aboard a candidate at a lower level to determine whether they’re truly ready to take on the responsibilities you have in mind for them. External searches are also important for filling skillset gaps you find in your workforce.

  • Remember: It’s always a team effort

    Even if you’re looking to replace just one executive, it’s important to remember that the upper echelons of any organization require cooperation and chemistry, and not just at the C-level. It’s also important to consider how well teams that are one or even two levels below will mesh both with each other and with their supervisors. In fact, it’s never sufficient to look at a candidate in isolation at any level. Ask yourself how their skills will complement the skills of those around them to determine whether they are actually the perfect fit.

  • Have an emergency plan in place

    Sometimes, an executive’s departure can be very sudden, leaving little bandwidth for finding a suitable replacement, even temporarily. That’s why, in addition to your ideal succession plan, it’s also important to maintain an emergency one. Ask yourself who you have on-hand in case one of your top decision-makers leaves unexpectedly. Who can you invest in today through training and mentorship to ensure your organization is ready?

  • As always, integrate rather than orientate

    A newly recruited executive is often expected to simply grab the baton from their predecessor and run with it – only faster. However, it’s unrealistic to think that even a new star CEO can take on their role successfully without proper integration. Good onboarding is important at all levels of an organization, including the C-level. Often, when a new top executive’s results fall flat, fingers get pointed every which way when what’s really at fault is a lack of support.

As the onset of a rapidly transforming Canadian workforce takes hold in 2013, the New Year will bring with it new challenges in obtaining and retaining talent at the very top of the org chart and all the way down. However, if your New Year’s resolution includes succession planning that’s in line with the advice above, your organization can look forward to many happy New Years to come.

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