Management - Other

The Importance of Succession Planning in the Workplace

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"The Importance of Succession Planning in the Workplace"
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Job succession can involve many situations, each with different pitfalls and necessary preparations. If an employee is leaving the department or firm and must be replaced, that is one component of succession. A desirable vacancy might mean a promotion for another person. Sometimes the succession might be viewed as a demotion point, a temporary position or a dead end job. There may be bad feelings over the replacement. There may be chaos that moves through the entire corporation or firm. These are the other components of succession.

Successions either involve existing employees who want the position or external hires who get the position. Staffers will have to work for a new CEO who may change out vice presidents, comptrollers, regional managers and others. If the employees are surprised with a new leadership structure and no plan, then respect, work effectiveness, trust and morale can sink very quickly.

A change in CEO or high level functionary will immediately affect the corporate image, stock prices, shareholder behavior, and credit ratings of the largest corporations. The succession issues with Apple's longtime leader, Steve Jobs, will affect a massive number of employees, investors and customers for years.

Steve Jobs and Apple have a succession plan in place, but it has been blocked from release by Apple's shareholders, since the information could make for a volatile market and stock trading situation.

The most important factor is to have the mission statements, the production and marketing plans and the management policies ready to communicate as quickly as possible. Nothing is worse than for thousands of employees in hundreds of departments to find out with no notice that jobs, programs or processes might change drastically. If there are delays in reassurance, then all will be distracted as they wait for the facts to come out.

Employees need to be reassured that they are valued and appreciated enough to get the clear, fairly comprehensive and honest communication that an effective succession plan provides.

Succession plans prevent rushing to reassign the components of an entire full time and essential position. Poor planning creates mistakes, delays, degradation of overall performance, frustration, lowering of employee morale and a host of other problems that my last or incur damages for a long time.

Succession planning and management is a process that is best dealt with when skill redundancy is well developed in multiple staffers. At the highest levels of a major corporation, positions are already filled by people who, with some changes, will carry on. But at lower levels, a lot of turmoil can go on.

The most chaotic successions develop when an essential job is filled, as with Steve Jobs, by the only person or one of few people who can carry out the vision and mission of the entire corporation. At the highest levels, such individuals are few and far between. The successor  is likely to change directions, make decisions and even make mistakes that will send waves of change throughout the organization as well as the markets.

High level successions will cause chaos at lower levels. If only one person in a department holds the necessary knowledge and is reassigned during the chaos of high level succession, then the next person will have to spend countless hours trying to re-invent those wheels.This creates a recursive effect as everything from production to customer service can be affected by the changes. The effects will aggregate and return to the top to affect the overall performance of the corporation.

At any level,  succession management always involves a choice of promoting from within or hiring from the outside. This is usually a touchy situation, especially when an existing and very critical employee desires the job, has regularly filled in for the job and has done so with excellent performance. Suddenly introducing a new face to the crowd, without preparation, discussion or warning can cause such damage to morale, trust and respect that problems can carry on throughout a workplace and last for a long time.

These problems place additional and heavy burdens on the successors, so these burdens should be anticipated and planned for,  not just at the highest levels but at every level of the firm.

On the chaotic end of the succession spectrum, hiring or promoting a high level individual who has a dicey performance history and/or a controversial reputation can have the same effect: loss of staff morale, trust and respect. At the highest levels of a major firm, the thousands of employees know the successor. But at lower levels, the dangers are much higher, since complete newcomers and external hires can come in and take over major departments or divisions.

Chaotic and burdensome successions create bad morale, drop heavy burdens, create environments of bad communication, and introduce performance instability. These event will happen when there is poor preparation, anticipation or communication.

Effective succession planning that considers every level of the firm requires a lot of thought, preparation, good judgment, good decisions and good communication. Trust can be earned or maintained and the successor has an easier job, especially when there are measures taken to show great respect for the employees who will have to work for and with the successor.

More about this author: Elizabeth M Young

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