March 2017 Vol. 25, No. 1

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Webinar offers tools, techniques for succession planning

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Your organization’s future depends on its ability to identify, retain, and prepare future leaders. This was the message of a webinar held last year by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University.

One of the speakers was Patrick Ibarra, a former city manager and HR director who owns and operates an organizational effectiveness consulting practice, The Mejorando Group. He presented tools, techniques, and tips to allow viewers to begin succession planning efforts immediately.

Ibarra first defined succession planning: It “ensures the continued effective performance of your organization by establishing a process to identify, select, and manage talent to build bench strength.”

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Ideally, agencies should try to link their growth and development resources with those employees who take initiative. “Succession planning isn’t for everybody, and it’s not just about getting promoted,” he said. “As you build your workforce, think about how you are keeping employees qualified for their current jobs—both technical skills and people skills—and keeping them competitive for openings.”

This may mean segmenting your workforce into those who are talented and want to stay fully qualified and those who don’t. And it might mean some delicate conversations. The goal is to develop a talent pool so that you have more than enough qualified people. “Yes, some may leave,” he said. “But think what happens if your employees aren’t learning and they stay.”

Ibarra outlined a process for succession planning:

  • Identify potential: Just because employees are high performers, it doesn’t mean they have high potential. “Some hit their ceilings soon in their career,” he said.
  • Assess readiness via performance and assessments: The appraisal process is important in succession planning. If employees aren’t receiving timely feedback, they don’t have a good idea of their current capabilities or what to do to learn and grow.
  • Determine strategies to close gaps: Determine any gaps between the workforce you have and the workforce you need. Look at what’s on the horizon in the next several years.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to pursue career paths and express career interests: “Younger people don’t see a clear career ladder—it’s more of career lattice,” he said. “Millenials are more comfortable having a job portfolio than a job title. We advise investing more time in career services and mentoring.”

Ibarra then led webinar participants through a series of interactive exercises to help them begin their succession planning. Accompanying materials—including an organization self-assessment and a workforce development survey—are on the webinar web page.

—Pam Snopl, LTAP editor

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