human resources consulting

Changing Demographics and Succession Planning Today

Our workforce is changing and hopefully the way we are planning for our successors is also changing. What is it about traditional succession planning processes that just don’t work anymore? In my opinion processes are still relevant but the execution is not. Succession plans that are owned by the HR Department and scheduled to be reviewed annually by executives are often the norm; however, this practice is too static given the magnitude of change within our organizations.

Businesses are dynamic and a succession plan that is a year old is of minimal value. What is of value then? Valuable succession plans are plans that are:
• an on-going part of your business planning;
• owned by the management team;
• based on development of people for mission critical positions; and
• embraced by Rising Stars who understand that they are a potential successor and are invested in preparing for the next step in their career.

Succession plans are relevant when they are constantly being referenced by management as a planning tool and Rising Stars know who they are and the role they can play.

We all know that the demographic of our workforce has changed. Statistics inform us that:
• we have up to 5 generations in the workplace;
• our workforce is aging;
• millennials will make up half of the workforce by 2020;
• culturally we are diverse;
• employment tenure is shorter and more employees are on term contracts versus regular employment.

No wonder the execution of our succession planning process is in need of a makeover – the workforce and expectations of our employees have changed. Our workforce expects to be engaged and employees want regular feedback on career paths and options with respect to their career. Many employees in the workforce today will take ownership for their own career planning and not wait for the annual performance review to find out whether a promotion might be on the horizon. Assumptions with respect to our employees and how they make career decisions have changed and the majority of our employees will plan their own careers and not wait for the corporate succession plan for their next move.

The traditional process for succession planning involves: demographic profiling of the workplace; identification of critical and key positions; job profiling for the key and critical positions; talent review to understand where to access potential candidates; and implementation of development plans for potential successors. This process is still important but too often the execution involves HR working in isolation and presenting back to executives the finished plan. By the time the plan is ready for presentation new mission critical business plans have been tabled and discussed. Resources have been assigned with no consideration to the succession plan or the new talent that has been recently on-boarded. The succession plan is too static considering the dynamic and changing landscape that we work in. Most executives are meeting regularly to discuss new opportunities and projects, a merger or a potential acquisition. Is there someone at this board table discussing the talent that is required for these mission critical business endeavours? Are we considering our succession plan and the talent throughout the organization when resourcing people for these projects? As HR professionals, how do we make sure succession planning and talent resourcing is part of the discussion and the business planning? How are we keeping our Rising Stars informed and involved in the career opportunities that new business opportunities create?

Speaking to our executives and managers about succession planning as a process that is aligned with business planning and one that they should own – not HR – is a good place to start. HR can and should facilitate the process but HR should not own it. Management need to be continually looking out and discussing talent as a part of regular management meetings. They need to know who the Rising Stars are across the organization and who they need to be communicating regularly with in order to keep them abreast of potential new opportunities. The Rising Stars need to be invited into meetings, have regular access to the leadership team and have an opportunity to get engaged in mission critical projects. They need to be more than a name in a Succession Plan – they need to be actively learning, involved and be able to visualize a potential career opportunity. This requires a succession plan which is grounded in the best practices of a traditional process but executed with a strong sense of alignment with the business and involvement with the leaders that lead it.

How do we ensure that the Succession Plan is relevant? As HR Professionals we need to facilitate the process but encourage management to take ownership and ensure that it is updated, monitored and referenced in mission critical planning sessions. We need to discuss with management the diversification of our workforce and the importance of understanding the different needs of employees given their gender, age and culture with respect to career planning. We need to help managers understand that many employees want to be involved in planning their career, and as such, they need to engage the Rising Stars in conversation around succession planning. Encourage management to utilize HR as a resource to allow them to successfully plan for succession. Let’s find a place at the board table as a key enabler that helps our executives and managers execute and own a succession plan that is relevant to the changing needs of the business and engages the diverse workforce that they manage.

If your organization is looking to strengthen you succession planning process, or need support in updating it to meet the needs of today’s diverse workforce, Salopek & Associates has the experience to help you develop an effective and strategic succession planning process. Contact us today to speak with one of our CPHR certified consultants who can help your organization navigate the challenges of attracting, retaining and developing your Rising Stars.

This article was originally featured in the CPHR Alberta’s HR Essentials August Newsletter. Check it out for more great articles specific to Succession Planning.

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