Should Succession Planning Be Important to Your Organization?

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I just can’t stop thinking

A systems  thinking approach to a business or organization means that the biz or org puts the cogs first – the wheel will follow successfully when the cogs are supported and in place.  I love this line of thought – a philosophy which decries that the people who make up the company are the most important asset the company has – if the company has been supporting them, the employees.

I have been thinking quite a bit about succession planning, as of late.  It is most likely because my company, Technomedia, offers an HR solution to help organizations plan for the succession of their employees.  But it may also have to do with the scary things I read about skills gaps and talent shortages, as well as how easy it is for a company to be left behind as social technologies, disruptive innovation, and forward thinking continually change how we do business, how we grow a business.

 “From the standpoint of society as a whole, the cost of anything is the value that it has in alternative uses.” – Thomas Sowell, US Economist

An Outdated Hiring Philosophy

When I first started recruiting many years ago, I often heard from clients that “Hiring from within will never work – we need to recruit from outside of our current system.”  One of my first search assignments as an executive recruiter was to find an Oncology Manager for quite a large hospital district in a very small mid-California town.  Several highly qualified and skilled nurses worked within this department but the organization failed to have a succession planning process in place.  Instead, a lengthy and costly search to recruit the difficult-to-fill role began.  Nearly 14 months later, a qualified replacement had been identified 700 miles away and an offer of employment was extended.  Add to the already steep costs, relocation and housing reimbursements.   As an outside observer, it was easy to see that this organization desperately needed to implement a Succession Planning process.

With Great Risk Comes Great Reward

If my story above were a lone and solitary tale, it could be easily fixed.  It’s not a lone story.  Businesses today have strayed from a “built to last” mentality when it comes to successfully implementing, navigating, and utilizing an optimal succession planning strategy.   This is a serious opportunity costs unrealized by the c-suite throughout the world today.   And implementing a succession planning strategy is not like betting on an unknown horse –  companies take unknown risks every day.  An organization with good forethought should bet on a horse already familiar with the track where it trains and races, knows its competition, and also finds comfort in the stall where it discovers respite.  Why not provide opportunities to current (and loyal) employees to race on a bigger and better track where greater wins can be achieved for employee and employer alike?

“Built to Last”

Shifting generational and diversity factors present significant talent management challenges for today and most assuredly tomorrow’s organizations.  When the focus of a hiring company is expressly shifted to include a change in their retention efforts, several results will occur.  Company culture and loyalty are inspired and nurtured.   Employment Branding from within sparks a change in how normal, everyday business opportunities are approached and satisfied.

A recent Bersin Study shows that organizations with leadership development strategies in place will dramatically outperform those companies which don’t.

Businesses today cannot afford to ignore this particular opportunity cost.  Their competitors will not.  


by Rayanne Thorn


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