Succession Planning….who needs it?

While a large number of baby boomers are planning to retire within the next decade, many companies are already beginning to focus their attention on filling important positions with qualified talent. Statistics say that only 1 in 3 Millennials plan to stay with the same organization for more than 3 years. Turnover of key employees is higher today than it has ever been and companies must face the reality that today’s workforce is highly mobile.

On top of that, maybe you are like our company and are growing – growing fast! Maybe you have the need for new supervisors, new managers, new leaders, the need to move management to a new site in another state? Maybe you need someone ready to serve as an ExPat internationally? Growth is exciting, but it can also bring challenges if you do not have people sitting on the bench, not only waiting, but ready to be called in to the game.

We have all read the articles that say organizations must have a formal succession plan to be competitive and yet so many companies today still do not have such a plan. A couple of years ago, our company took on the task to begin formalizing strategies for succession planning. Although I believe we have a great start, it has not been easy. It has taken a lot of time to develop and we still have a little ways to go before it is complete.

We started with the development of a 9 Box process. A 9 box is a simple yet effective tool used to assess talent in organizations. It assesses individuals on two dimensions – their past performance and their future potential. As is obvious, there are 9 boxes that we attached names to, so it is easier for both the employee and their boss to understand their placements. The performance lower side has boxes such as on the bubble”, inconsistent player and rough diamond, whereas the higher performance side has functional expert, current star and Jedi.  In this example, as you rise from functional expert to Jedi, you are also rising in your potential. That potential could be for your next promotion or to take on more scope of responsibilities.

Upper management, in each division within our business units, have calibration meetings once a performance evaluation is completed. Next in the process is to begin the discussion of where the employee should land in the 9 box, again looking at performance and future potential. These can be lively discussions, as someone’s boss might believe their employee has high potential, whereas another member of management might have a completely different opinion of the person due to their interactions with them.  What is the benefit to these calibration meetings?

  • It forces you to have meaningful discussions around talent
  • It makes you calibrate and come to shared agreement on expectations and evaluations and builds shared ownership for development of people across the entire organization

The step in which we are working on now is creating trainings and solid development paths for our high potential employees. As these employees develop, we try to test them with more projects to manage and allow them opportunities to cross train which hopefully keeps them engaged to stay with our company….for more than 3 years.


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