Workforce.com

How Do We Plan for Succession With an Older Workforce?

May 12, 2014

Dear Looking to the Future:

Your question is one many organizations are facing as the baby boomer generation begins a mass exodus from the workforce. According to a poll conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 40 percent of the workforce falls into the boomer category. As this generation continues to age and begins to retire, a large majority of organizations will face the challenge of succession planning.

Here are a few key steps for succession planning. When you have one or more of the following in place, you should feel comfortable that you have the resources necessary to fill vacant positions when they occur, rather than scrambling at the last minute to fill open slots.

Discuss development opportunities regularly: Opportunities for advancement and job development should be a part of regular conversations (such as during performance reviews). Regular discussions will allow managers to better understand employees’ goals and aspirations for advancement. Leaders are then better prepared to develop their staff and find the right fit for the job. Additionally, these conversations will ensure managers are aware of employees who would be a good fit for various job openings, allowing you to make a list of “go-to” workers for various jobs when there is an opening.  

Employees who are leaving the company also should be included in discussions about development. Given these employees’ knowledge of the job requirements, they may be best prepared to offer suggestions on necessary qualities or specific employees who would be a good fit to replace them.

Offer mentorship opportunities: To aid succession planning,organizations should have a mentorship program whereby older employees mentor younger employees. This type of interaction prepares younger workers to assume some responsibilities as more established workers near retirement. Additionally, formal mentorship programs help prepare employees, rather than rushing to train and develop them after someone leaves. Our research has found that formal mentoring programs in the workplace work especially well between boomers and so-called millennials.

Offer flexible work arrangements: Flexible work arrangements enable older employees to transition gradually out of their jobs. These arrangements ease the succession and transition process, as the older employee can train the new employee and ensure knowledge transfer is complete before leaving permanently. Flexible work arrangements help employees balance their work and personal lives.

It is also important to have metrics in place to measure your success in succession planning. Determine ways to assess the outcomes and types of experience necessary for the position. As a new employee takes over, monitor whether he or she is achieving the required job goals. If not, it may be time to have an additional conversation about job fit. If it is necessary to re-evaluate this individual’s fit, however, you will be prepared; the career development discussions will have allowed you to develop a list of other workers who may serve as replacements, as well as find a better fit for the individual. 

SOURCE: Murat Philippe, director of workforce consulting services, Avatar Solutions, Chicago, April 22, 2014