(by Mark Fiala, as appeared at GalliardInstitute.org)
What happens when a position on your team becomes vacant? When an opening occurs, are you caught off guard? If so, you are left with a gap in your team because no one is ready to step into the role vacated. You can be left with unhappy customers. You will be left scrambling to find a replacement, and you may hire out of desperation.
Having the right people, in the right place, at the right time, and with the right training, is one of the biggest challenges facing any business, including family-owned businesses. Our human resources consulting practice focuses much of its time working with organizations to develop a robust succession planning and talent review process.
For many small or family-owned business, succession is thought of as your plan to transition management and/or ownership to younger family members or others through a sale or transfer. Human resources practitioners think of it more broadly as part of the overall and ongoing plan to grow and develop talent, especially when it comes to identifying and developing mid-level [team leads, supervisors, managers] management bench strength. Large organizations spend a considerable amount of time on talent management and succession planning to ensure that they have a depth of talent for key roles.
Some of the reasons we see family-owned businesses without good succession planning in place are:
- Lack of knowledge about the ‘art and science’ of succession planning and talent development and its value to the organization.
- Family issues related around who will be the next generation leadership/ownership.
- Lack of appreciation for the importance of succession planning to business health or investor interest.
- Other priorities that appear more important…until a key person decides to leave or a recently- promoted person fails in their new role.
When we work with organizations on succession planning, the first thing we look for is an organizational chart. This helps us understand who is doing what, where there may be gaps, and how much clarity is around responsibility and accountability.
Many times there is no org chart, and that tells us a lot about how much thinking has gone into long-term workforce planning. While it may be part of your culture to work together informally or have people fill many roles, a clear understanding of who does what and who reports to whom is a critical step in the succession planning process. The org chart helps you identify current and future staffing needs, especially among your management group.
In addition to the org chart, you should also have the following in place:
- Job descriptions for all roles.
- The list of behaviors that people should exhibit to be successful in their roles [also known as competencies].
- Completed performance appraisals to understand staff effectiveness and capability.
With these tools in place, you can now start your succession planning process. One approach we recommend is to use a talent review chart. This will help you reflect on how employees are performing, who is on the verge of advancement, and who is on the verge of leaving.
Your talent review chart can help you:
- Determine who is effective at demonstrating competency in leadership behaviors.
- Gauge where a person is in their career.
- Ascertain the likelihood of the person leaving your organization and the effect of them doing so.
- Identify possible successors.
Documenting your succession planning process will enable you to:
- Match the supply of labor to the positions available and identify potential shortfalls or gaps.
- Consider potential movement scenarios.
- Determine where you need to have successors in place or in the process of learning necessary skills.
- Factor the ‘domino effect’ from the movement of internal candidates into the succession planning process, potentially resulting in a different position vacancy.
- Choose the best person for the position, rather than the best available person.
Succession planning helps maximize your team’s competency and effectiveness in the long-term, ensuring the ongoing success of your organization. For the success of your business, in terms of revenue growth and customer satisfaction, it is essential to have a succession plan in place.