Making Survival Skills Work for You

11.03.2010
HR & Safety

When it comes to planning for the future of your business and holding on to your key employees, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? Are you too busy to deal with it right now? Do you think addressing it once a year is enough? Or do you let the responsibility fall solely to your HR department?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone in placing succession planning low on your list of priorities. But you don’t want to see your top talent walk out the door because keeping them motivated and engaged wasn’t high on your to-do list.

“The question is: how do you keep the workforce engaged and put people on a path so they feel a connection to the organization, work with you for the long term and still see their clear career progression for the long term?” asked Robert Lewis, vice president, Western Region, APTMetrics at CBIA’s Midyear HR Update.

It’s a question top executives and HR professionals need to answer. But it’s not as complicated as it seems. All it takes is some good, old-fashioned motivation, easily created by building a culture of succession planning and development. And it won’t be a lengthy undertaking if you engage the right people. But it’s up to you to create a mindset in which your decision makers are always conscious of where the business is going.

Lewis recommends accomplishing this by

  • Articulating why it is important to you and the company
  • Challenging everyone to find opportunities to learn, stretch, and add skills as part of their everyday work
  • Teaching and encouraging managers to ask about learning
  • Leverage your performance management process to ensure managers are appraised on developing people
  • Promote from a healthy pool using transparent and valid selection procedures

But succession planning is more than security in knowing you can fill office vacancies. You need to identify key roles people can fill and how your employees can get the skills required to fill them. Only then can you secure the future of your business.

“Succession planning is not replacement planning,” Lewis said. “Succession planning has a longer-term horizon and has to consider where the business is going. If you can engage people in the organization in figuring that out, you are much better placed to plan the talent you need and get them in the right spot.”

And it’s especially important to take steps to engage your talent now while the economy slowly ramps up.

“I do think that it’s critical for management teams, along with their HR partners, to really think about where their employees are now mentally. Because I think as the economy picks up, it’s a race, and your better employees are going to be looking around,” said Gary Clarke, managing partner, The Career Co-op LLC in Westport. “They are attractive to other companies because they have built these great survival skills.”

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