This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Water Quality Products magazine as "Rising Stars"
Americans are retiring at an increasing pace. According to the Census forecast, it is projected that by 2030 nearly 12,000 people per day will retire. Succession planning should be a significant priority in all businesses. This process is meant to develop talent within the organization and prepare it for future roles.
Key management, sales people, engineers and technicians transition for many reasons; employees transfer to other roles, leave the company, retire or get sick. A succession plan allows for smooth transitions without much interruption to daily operations. So, why is it that business owners are not working more diligently on this issue? Well, for many of us, we are busy working in our business and believe that there is more time to work on our business later. For some of us, we do not know why it is important or where to start.
A Shifting Landscape
There are many reasons to have a succession plan in place. Currently, baby boomers are between the ages of 55 and 75 years old. Many are at retirement age and beginning the transition into retirement. If this has not impacted your business yet, it will. Succession planning allows for you to minimize the risk of losing experience. With the right plan in place, you can provide training so that the knowledge is transferred from key personnel to rising stars. In the water industry specifically, we are seeing a shift in the landscape of the workforce. Many dealerships have been generational. Some dealers are finding that their children or grandchildren are not interested in carrying on the family water business. This brings in business people that may not be versed in water specifically. Young people within water companies who are interested do not have the experience, thus relying on seasoned veterans to be coaches.
We also are seeing a shift where there are more women in leadership roles within the industry. We still have a long way to go to reach a more equally balanced leadership across men to women, but the shift is present. WQA’s Women in Industry (WIN) was created to bring awareness and enthusiasm to this shift. The landscape is changing, and as business leaders, we must adapt. Succession planning has many benefits including a boost to employee morale, and it allows for better employee retention.
Collaboration & Mentorship
You now know why it is important, so let us now tackle how to get started. As business owners and leaders, you first must know what core competencies are required in your business. If you are an owner that is removed from the day-to-day operations, then you should have your management assist you in determining this. You need to know what skills are required and what types of personnel are required. Then assess which of the employees on your current team fill these requirements. Using your departmental leaders, assess who are the rising stars in each department. You also must consider what roles you need to seek outside of the company if you do not have the proper talent within. Now it is time to work with your rising stars.
Accountability partners are great for training. Match up your key personnel with your rising stars and you are likely to see a great knowledge transfer. I have heard more than once in my life that “a rising tide lifts all ships.” Make sure you are having open conversations with your key personnel so that they know the goals you have and can be the best coach possible for their partners. As your up-and-comers continue through their guided growth and development, keep detailed records of their progress. Review this progress with them often, so that they know where they are meeting expectations and where they need to further develop. Mentorship, whether formal or informal, goes a long way, and millennials, for example, really thrive in an environment where there is mentorship. At some point in the process, you want to encourage a practice run. If you are grooming a sales person for management, have them spend time actually performing the job. When you next meet, you will have tangible feedback rather than just hypothetical feedback.
People make decisions to act or not act for their own reasons. Employees take new opportunities, they move away or family life changes; however, one thing does not change. Your customers expect you to provide a good, seamless service without interruption. Succession planning allows for you to minimize interruptions to service as much as possible. It also will help when you are seeking external talent to fill roles. It will showcase that there is a talent development process and opportunity for growth. Succession planning is not just necessary for your business’ future, but for all of your employees, as well. Leaders must know where they are going in order to expect employees to want to follow them.