There is an elephant in the management suite – an impending talent pipeline crisis. The crisis doesn’t stop at the top. There is also a serious shortage of skilled workers for key positions, from maintenance positions to service technicians to nursing. The problem is only going to get worse. Succession planning needs more attention than lip service.
According to the Department of Labor by 2018, 1 in 4 workers will be over the age of 55. The need to build a talent pipeline is critical and the clock is ticking.
The process of building this pipeline is often called succession planning. Unfortunately the mere mention of succession planning infers senior leadership. At best it reaches down the ladder to management. But rarely do organizations identify critical key roles that left unfilled or filled with the wrong employee could cost the organization revenues and competitive advantage.
Just yesterday morning I described to a local SHRM chapter why the scope of succession planning in most organizations is too narrow. A definition from a State of Iowa Workplace Planning document offers one of the most accurate and inclusive descriptions:
Succession planning is a process whereby organizations ensure that employees are recruited and/or developed to fill each key role within the organization.
A recent article described two types of succession planning: Operational Workforce Planning and Strategic Workforce Planning.
Operational Workforce Planning typically occurs with your annual budgeting cycle and forecasts staffing needs and planning for the coming year to 18 months. Sixty-seven percent of all companies conduct workforce planning on a purely operational and as-needed basis.
Strategic Workforce Planning looks into the future planning for and evaluating your organization’s staffing plans and forecasts one to five years even ten years into the future. A Strategic Workforce Plan is a full-scale evaluation and plan that identifies rick, change, and potential areas of opportunity.
To management, a strategic workforce plan looks like a daunting task. To some extent it is. But the failure to identify the risk factors associated with retaining and recruiting for key roles is significant.
During the SHRM meeting, a few members identified key positions in their organizations that remain unfilled and the risk for future openings was high. The HR manager for a poultry processor noted that the lack of maintenance workers put quality and safety at risk. A manufacturer cited the inability to recruit service technicians (installers) as one reason production has been cut and revenue projections reduced.
Despite the known and associated challenges of recruiting skilled workers not a single hand was raised when I asked the following questions:
- How many organizations have identified the risk of loss for critical employees/positions?
- How many organizations have identified the competencies required in critical positions?
Organizations must begin to stop giving lip service to the importance of succession planning. According to a new CareerBuilder study, seven out of 10 workers admit that they search for jobs as part of their “regular routine.” Thirty-five percent say that they start searching for a job within weeks of starting a new position. The risk of losing additional key employees in the future is substantial. The risk is imminent.
It behooves every organization – large and small – to take time to build a critical talent plan and pipeline. I offer the following 8 steps.
- Determine current and future needs.
- Develop the ideal employee profile for at-risk key positions.
- Assess internal talent inventory.
- Identify the gaps between available and needed talent.
- Develop current talent and track progress.
- Identify the best strategies for acquiring talent from outside the organization.
- Assess and refine sourcing, screening, and selection strategies.
- Execute, monitor, refine….and monitor again.
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Succession planning is clearly one of the most critical and difficult issues in HR practice. Thanks for discussing it!