Two weeks ago, I was the opening speaker for a CEO and C-Suite Professionals Conference – virtual of course. Executives from all over the country were online, and the theme of the event was employee engagement and succession planning. Specifically, what does it take in today’s business environment to develop and implement the perfect succession plan?
The agenda was packed, and the event organizers had brought in consultants, coaches, and a wide variety of experts from all over the world. They talked and demonstrated the latest tools and resources to lead succession plans and design strong organizational structures.
While the information was amazing, there was just one problem. Just one question that was left unanswered, and just one critical piece of the succession planning equation that needed to be answered.
I discovered it when I was researching and writing my own keynote. I had interviewed several of the attendees, and a few of the board members of the association. I wanted to know what the most significant challenges my audience was facing, what opportunities they were focusing on, and what, if anything, did they want or need from this virtual conference.
As it turns out, the one thing they needed was the one thing these coaches, consultants, and experts were not addressing; How to get your employees to engage in succession planning.
While having the right tools, investing in the strategies, and creating an inviting culture, all does a lot to move your succession plan forward, the CEO’s realized that while they could create a culture of succession and engagement, they had no control over whether their employees were motivated to participate in it.
So, their big question was how do we get our teams engaged in succession planning? How do we inspire them to step up to the plate and take ownership?
For succession planning to work or have any hope of actually being implemented, employees need to engage. Succession planning, to be effective, is a two-way street with both sides (leadership and team) as passionate as the other about the success of the succession strategy.
4 Strategies To Inspire Ownership In Your Succession Plan
- Have a plan – First and foremost, you have to have a plan, a strategy for why you need a succession plan, what you hope to accomplish and precisely how you are going to do it. You need to know what positions you need a succession plan for, those that are most urgent, and whom you have identified to be in the initial phase of your succession plan. In other words what is the end goal, who needs to be involved, what do they need to know, and what is everyone’s role and responsibility. When you can answer those questions effectively you have a solid and strong plan.
- Communicate the plan – With a clear plan of how you are going to accomplish your succession plan you are ready to communicate it. Communication is key to getting people to understand what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how they can get involved. You need a strategy for communication to ensure you are clear, consistent and effective. Always remember you can never communicate your succession plan too often or too much. So don’t be afraid to repeat it, talk about it often, and ask the team for input and feedback.
- Provide training and development – If you want your team to engage in your succession plan, then you need to give them the tools and skills to do that. Providing them with the things they need to be successful fuels people to action. When you invest in training and development, you send a loud message to your team that you are vested, serious and fully committed. Also, if you want your team to invest in your succession plan then it is smart to begin by investing in them.
- Feedback and adjust – Ask, listen, learn, and adjust. If you want your team to engage with your succession plan, then you need to allow your team the opportunity to be a part of creating, developing and improving it. Asking for feedback and listening tells the team you care and that their future is important to you. Look across your organization to the key stakeholders, those employees that you both want as part of the succession plan, but also those that hold influence with your team (they are not always the same.) Get them involved and engaged at every step – the planning, the communication, the training and development. People support what they help create.
Building a strong succession plan is essential to the future of your company. However, to get it to work, you need to make sure you include the most crucial part of your plan – your employees. By the end of this conference, we solved the biggest issue – getting your team on board. With a little help from my audience, and understanding of their biggest pain points, we were able to focus on the most important part of succession planning – getting your team engaged!