HR directors play a crucial role in helping C-suite executives plan for the next generation of corporate leadership, but don’t forget about the other departments.
Succession planning is often viewed as a company’s plan for assuring business continuity and brand strength when a member of the C-suite retires or leaves. But smart HR leaders will extend succession planning concepts across the company, especially for key positions within each department.
In addition, traditional corporate succession planning often isn’t enough at long-term and post-acute care organizations, where leadership is shared across executive and clinical functions. For example, while many providers prepare for the loss of a CEO, many do not prepare for the loss of a DON or MDS Coordinator, even though losing the director of nursing has just as great an impact on staff workflow as losing a top-tier executive.
High turnover can thwart HR’s ability to invest in employee advancement, notes an expert panel writing for Forbes Human Resource Council. “It’s our job to not only hire great talent, but also to identify and develop new leaders,” says Tania White, HR officer at The Loretto Hospital, in the Forbes article. “Succession planning increases the readiness of experienced and capable employees who are prepared to assume leadership roles as they become available.”
Here’s what HR leaders can do to promote healthy succession planning across departments:
Be proactive, not reactive. Don’t wait until the CEO is 60 to think about what will happen next. Many CEOs believe themselves to be invincible, delaying discussions on what will happen to corporate leadership at retirement. HR managers must be gentle but firm with C-suite execs, conveying the importance of discussing and planning for executive transitions rather than leaving them to chance—and the importance of applying succession planning concepts across all departments.
Anticipate upcoming gaps. Succession planning is about preventing chaos and workflow interruptions. So, savvy HR leaders will incorporate scenario planning to cover all major department heads, not just the CEO, the article notes.
Look within. No one knows the current workforce better than HR, so create programs that encourage advancement within your own ranks and keep an eye on your brightest and best performers. HR also plays a role in helping executives understand the value of the employees already on the staff, including their strengths and potentials.
Grow your own all year long. Once potential advancers are identified, HR professionals should have programs in place to encourage employees who are a good fit for a higher position, including giving them access to training materials and/or continuing education opportunities. It doesn’t do much good to say, “You’d be a great LPN!” and not give the employee the information needed to explore the opportunity.
Remember: leadership is lateral. Inspiring new leaders has another benefit: The engagement tends to spread among others on the staff. It also shows that the company believes in cultivating employee skills and aspirations, which is a proven way to improve retention.