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Your Leaders Secretly Hate Succession Planning

Aug 6

You want to know what you’ll never hear anyone on your leadership team say publicly?  Well, let me stop before I get started, because there are probably a ton of things leaders will say behind closed doors, off the record, and then open the door and say the exact opposite. Welcome to the PC version of corporate America.

One of the obvious, which always causes a stir is veteran hiring.  William Tincup and I were just talking about this last week, in regards to a correlation he was making about organizations and succession planning.  I wrote a post about Veteran Hiring a while back, in which I state that companies will always, 100% of the time, publicly say they support veteran hiring, but behind closed doors they don’t really support veteran hiring.

If they did, we would not have a veteran hiring crisis in this country! If every organization who claims they want to hire veterans, would just hire veterans, we would have 100% employed veterans! But we don’t. Why?  Well, it’s organizational suicide to ever come out and say we don’t really want to hire veterans.  The media would kill that organization. Yet, veterans can’t get hired.

Succession planning is on a similar path.  Your leaders say the support succession planning. They’ll claim it is a number one priority for your organization. But, every time you try and do something with succession planning, it goes no where!

Why?

Your leaders hate succession planning for a number of reasons, here are few:

1. Financially, succession planning is a huge burden on organizations, if done right.  Leaders are paid on the financial success of your organization. If it comes down to Succession Planning, or Michael getting a big bonus, Succession Planning will get pushed to next year, then, next year, then, next year…  You see Succession Planning is really over hiring. Preparing for the future. It’s a long term pay back.  Very few organizations have leadership in place with this type of long term vision of success.

2.  Leaders get too caught up in headcount.  We only have 100 FTEs for that group, we couldn’t possibly hire 105 and develop and prepare the team for the future, even though we know we have 6% turnover each year.  Organizations react. Fire fight.  Most are unwilling to ‘over hire’ and do succession in a meaningful way.

3. Leaders are like 18 year old boys. They think they can do it forever!  Again, publicly they’ll tell you they’re planning and it’s important. Privately, they look at some smartass 35 year old VP and think to themselves, there is no way in hell I’ll ever let that kid take over this ship!

So, what can smart HR Pros do?

Begin testing some Succession Planning type tools and data analytics in hot spots in your company. Don’t make it a leadership thing. Make it a functional level initiative, in a carve out area of your organization.  A part of the organization that is highly visible, has direct financial impact to the business, and one you know outwardly has succession issues.

Tinker. Get people involved. Have conversations. Start playing around with some things that could have impact in terms of development, retention, cross training, workforce planning, etc.  All those things that constitute succession, but instead of organization level, you are focusing on departmental level or a specific location.

Smart HR Pros get started.  They don’t wait for the organization to do it all at once. That will probably never happen.  Just start somewhere, and roll it little by little. Too often we don’t get started because we want to do it all. That is the biggest mistake we can make.

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