Recently I was speaking in Baltimore, Maryland at a Healthcare Finance conference. Because I was the closing keynote, I flew in the day before so I could spend some time connecting with some attendees and listen to the other speakers.
As you can imagine the topics the speakers covered ranged from leadership to technology to government regulation. It was a pretty standard line-up except for one guy, a speaker who was on stage before me.
A professor at the University of Maryland by day, he had started keynoting based off a new book he had published about the future of business. He called himself a futurist; that is someone who studies the future and makes predictions based on trends.
He spoke about everything from the disappearance of full-time employment; to the role robotics will play continue to play in replacing traditional manual jobs. While I did not buy-in or agree with all of what he said, but when he started talking about the workforce and the future of employees and talent going forward, my ears perked up.
Beginning with what we all know, finding great help is hard to find. There is a virtual war on talent. The speaker then sheds some new light on why. He said that today’s workforce, while eager, is far less prepared than our parents’ generation.
With baby boomers, retiring at rapid rates, either because they want to or age and health are making that decision for them; there is just not enough talent to take their place. The natural succession plan would be Gen X. Roughly ages 38 to 53, they are the smallest of the generations, so just by sheer numbers there are not enough of them to move into these vital leadership positions.
Also, after the recession that started in 2008, many Gen X men did not return to the workforce. Having been hit hardest by layoffs and downsizing, many opted out of the job market and unfortunately looks like are staying out for good.
That leaves Millennials (roughly 21 to 37), while they are an even more substantial generation than the baby boomers, according to our futurist speaker; they are not nearly as experienced. He shared that things like organized sports, helicopter parenting and the fact that most of their activities involve adult supervision. Millennials have missed the opportunity that lack of parental involvement provides for developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
“Succession planning is an ongoing process of systematically identifying, assessing and developing talent to ensure the leadership continuity for all essential positions within an organization.”
Boomers grew up in a time when kids walked to schools, sports were self-organizing, and parents backed up the teacher no matter if he or she was right or wrong. Those taught boomers early on how to persevere, be resilient and how to solve problems. They at least had the desired skills that would prove invaluable in the workforce.
Millennials bring incredible skills to the workplace, they are just different, and some of these foundational skills still need to be developed. That changes everything about how we view succession plans, and the new role they need to play in our corporate culture. We used to have the luxury of waiting to do a succession plan when a leader was ready to retire or was thinking about stepping down.
In today’s business succession planning, planning is an ongoing strategy, and one of the most vital elements, the core competencies you need to have in place to ensure sustainability and long-term success. Also, it is a strategy that is never complete, one that needs to be continually updated, communicated and maintained.
So where do you start, and how do you get your business succession plan moving?
Ultimately, the three strategies to start developing business succession planning, one needs to take inventory, create and establish criteria for future leaders and start small while continuously working on it.
- Take Inventory – first and foremost you need to understand where you are today. What talent you have, what expertise you need, and what talent is available in your marketplace. In other words, you need to take inventory. You need to get a clear perspective of what it takes from a talent perspective to run your company effectively. Are there any roles within your organization that could be filled with existing talent, and what positions will you need to go out and recruit?
- Create Criteria – you need to develop your criteria, your standards. What do your future leaders need to have regarding skills, talent, and values? Work on expanding principles of what it takes beyond experience and job history to lead your company.
- Start Small – creating a robust succession plan is not an easy task. There are a lot of moving parts and a lot of required investment concerning time and resources. So there is no need to develop the entire succession plan in one sitting. Feel free to start small. Begin with the most critical positions. Those most vital to the organization, and/or those with leaders most close to retirement. Get those succession plans in place, see what is working, what is not, adjust and keep building your succession planning strategy.
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