2022 is the year of intentional change – especially within the business landscape. While the past two years presented unknown variables whose effects were shrouded in uncertainty, people were often reactionary to this change. If wages got cut, individuals stayed put as they had no alternative. Others picked up the slack without disagreement if the team got thinned down. If timelines got tighter, everyone wordlessly accommodated.
Well, not anymore. The pandemic helped the world realize what’s important and, more importantly, what’s not. As of today’s date, over 3% of workers are voluntarily leaving their jobs every month (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). This might be for more worthy pursuits elsewhere, better work conditions, or just a want for something different. Whatever it is, it’s by the individual. Employees are now calling the shots.
Enter 2022: the year of turnover.
Where does succession planning fit in?
Regardless of all that’s changed, the importance of succession planning in 2022 is more prevalent than ever. This is aptly captured through the “bus factor” phenomenon, which Michael McLay first coined in 1994. It outlines the minimum number of team members who will disrupt business operations drastically if hit by a bus. Although morbid, it works well to paint a picture. When individuals in critical roles possess covert knowledge and skills, their absence will be more pronounced. Effective succession planning pinpoints high performers who could be the right fit for future positions, as when the bus hits. And we never know when a bus might hit, so we must always be prepared.
This is where career and succession planning comes in: to create a seamless handover when people leave or retire from a company, not to affect morale, business, and team dynamics. It’s formulating an overarching pipeline for future leaders to step into. Ideally, succession planning is so strong that you never have to face the bus factor.
The road bumps that lie ahead
As psychologist Anthony Klotz predicted, 2021 would be The Great Resignation. From the culmination of years of work fatigue, thousands and millions of people have finally had enough. Now, according to a paper by Brian Kopff and Emily Rose McRae, “the great resignation will shift to the sustained resignation.” The lasting forces of the past two years have culminated in producing a shift in human behavior. One, that’s here to stay.
This is down to a push and pulls of sorts. As hybrid and remote work have become the norm, employees have a weaker pull to stay put in a job. Since they are not interacting with their colleagues face-to-face, it’s easier to let go of professional bonds. Meanwhile, there’s an external push from other companies to find talent. With 2022 comes a fast-growing economy and one of the most significant labor shortages in decades (Global Workplace Analytics/owllabs.com, 2020). So, surrounding businesses are easing hiring criteria, providing flexible benefits and all-around more tremendous incentives to get people to switch. In this flippant landscape, succession planning becomes more imperative than ever.
Suppose we now cast our attention to Deloitte’s year-long study. In that case, they conclude that the most significant impediment when it comes to succession planning has “a common culprit—the failure to recognize and address the impact of human behavior…” (2018). How do we account for it in our succession planning process?
How to smoothen the journey of succession planning
- Be proactive Succession Planning
An easy yet targeted way to address this behavioral change is by redirecting your attention. Invest in people, not the company. While succession planning is a solution for the company’s sake, it deals with people at the end of the day. So instead of trying to fit people into roles, see whether their part is of significance.
- What does employee A get up to on a day-to-day basis, and what would happen if they did not come in one day?
- Is this employee a high performer or a high potential? Can we build on their skills and provide them the resources to unite the two?
- How happy is employee A’s team with their leadership?
- Is employee A getting everything he wants out of being in his current role?
Answers to these questions shed light on several things:
- Viability of the candidate to become a successor
- How time-sensitive the need for a succession plan is
- Steps to take to teach the candidate into the succession plan
- Be open
With the growing rise of hybrid and remote work, greater digitization and adoption of the metaverse will come into play. Companies who fail to keep up with these changes will falter behind. This is applicable in working conditions and the tools you use to get work done. Bersin illustrates this aptly, “Imagine, for example, a staff meeting where everyone can interact and move around (as if they were there), but without spending five hours flying across the country. There’s a big future here.” (2021).
This would have a twofold effect. First, it bridges that virtual gap and establishes seamless employee engagement. This regains that stickiness professional relationships hold in keeping employees and thus, making them viable candidates for succession planning. Second, it lets employees know that you are responding to their behavioral changes to give them all the knowledge and tools to be a high performers. As they adapt, you adapt with them.
In this same vein, being open also applies to soft skills. In the digital age, orthodox conceptions of a “good leader” seem mismatched. With digitization comes an appreciation for characteristics such as empathy, learnability, agility, and relentlessness. This shifts our focus on what to consider when coming up with a potential successor. They could have the corporate knowledge to prosper, but do they have that modern adaptability to match it?
- Be introspective
When coming up with effective succession planning, be aware that your role will one day have to be filled in too. Consider what you can offer, both as an HR representative and an employee, to help make succession planning a more informed process. With the human behavioral change that 2022 brings, your greatest asset is your human mind.
- What is the general culture like in the company, and is it an incubating environment to thrive in?
- Are your needs being met and your career trajectory celebrated?
- Do you think you’ve left someone else equipped to take over if you happen to go?
These soundbites interweave a unique clarity in succession planning. One that not even a bus can get in the way of.
Additional Resources for Succession Planning
- Succession Planning
- Succession Planning Content
- Succession Planning toolkit
- Succession Planning Check List
- Poor Succession-Planning
- Challenges Of Succession Planning
- Succession Planning How To Avoid Promoting the Wrong Person
- Poor Succession Planning
- Succession Planning HR buyers guide
- Succession Planning E Book