<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Do We Develop A Succession Plan To Create Two Levels Of Leaders

April 9, 2004
Dear Nurturing:
In a fast-changing world, it is wise to plan ahead both for growth opportunities and for the possibility your company could shrink. For an organization growing at the rate you describe, you may want to look beyond succession planning toworkforce planning. As you may know, workforce planning is the process of proactively planning to avoid talent surpluses or shortages. It's based on the premise that by forecasting and planning ahead, a company can avoid the need for layoffs or "panic" hiring. Workforce planning might be more accurately called "talent planning," because it integrates the elements of each of the workforce-management functions that relate to talent.
Start simple
When you select a workforce-planning model, your first inclination might be to implement the most sophisticated planning model you can envision. Instead, start with a model that is the easiest to understand and implement.
The foundation of workforce planning is a workforce forecast. It's a month-by-month view of the following:
  • Existing staff
  • Predicted turnover (voluntary and involuntary)
  • Retirements and extended absences
  • Promotions or transfers in/out
  • New hires
  • Total need
  • Estimated gap
The output of this forecast, or estimated gap, can be used to coordinate the supply of talent to meet the demand.
There's nothing more frustrating than hiring and training a group of managers, only to have them leave just when you need them the most. In a small firm, the retention of key managers is even more crucial because the firm's small size means there are likely to be few "surplus" managers available should someone leave.
Increased retention generally comes from more communication with your "potential managers." Start with periodic meetings where you ask them to share what motivates and frustrates them. Increased retention also means providing them with sufficient learning and job challenges, so that they're continually excited about their current job while they're moving toward their dream job.
Developing future leaders
Select employees you feel are potential leaders. The secret to leadership development in a small firm is to give these individuals numerous small projects--or parts of bigger projects--where they can act as leaders for a short period of time. You can also use short-term job rotations to give them broader experience. By offering rewards and incentives to managers for developing others, you can speed up the learning process while simultaneously ensuring that your managers don't get jealous or become concerned about their own job security.
Even if your retention and leadership development programs work well, it's still a good idea to have a strong recruiting component in your workforce plan. Start by recruiting people that have the skill not just to do their current job, but also the potential to do the job at least one level above them. Also consider developing a pool of contractors, consultants, and retirees that could fill in quickly, if necessary, should your retention or leadership development efforts fail. Build relationships with them over time so that when you do have an immediate need, the finding and assessment parts of your plan are already complete.
SOURCE:John Sullivan, head and professor of the Human Resource Management College of Business at San Francisco State University April 21, 2003.
LEARN MORE:Measure Supervisors' Competencies.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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