For credit unions, as with other organizations, succession planning is not just about forming a pipeline of people ready for new roles, it is a chance to engage and advance a workforce that is committed to your credit union’s values and vision. It is not just about the C suite, but it’s about opportunity that is explored throughout the organization. It’s not about the jobs people are ready for today; it is about preparing your leadership for tomorrow.
Organizations, however, have a hard time with succession planning. Too often it’s given a low priority because there is lack of accountability for it, and managers do not see a pay-off for their effort. For many people, the process can bring out emotions around personal worth and fears around their career path. Managers may find it difficult to face an exit from their position and realize they are not indispensable. Plus, they may be tasked to find and train a replacement for themselves. For those people chosen and those not chosen for the jobs they want to eventually perform, a system of have and have nots is established, often diminishing morale. Moreover, some organizations practice a process driven by company politics, popularity, or the perception that it is someone’s turn. All of this adds up to undermining the organizational culture.
Alternatively, identifying and developing the people who will guide the organization in the future is an opportunity to strengthen and reinforce a healthy culture — one that communicates vision and core values and promotes those people in alignment with them. Your planning is based on the strategic vision of where the organization is heading given where it is now. Your strategic talent development creates an intentional win-win dynamic where people realize that there truly are career opportunities for them. Individuals identified for succession. although talented, may not be ready for the future role today. They should be identified as much for potential as for current strength. Targeted learning and “stretch” experiences serve to cultivate and challenge them. Succession planning becomes part of the cultural DNA of continuous learning and constant increases in leadership capacity.
A successful succession plan requires discipline and clear accountability. The responsibility may reside with human resources, the business unit, or another business area. Clarity of who has responsibility for succession planning is more important than the area where responsibility lies. With responsibility comes accountability. The credit union board is responsible for the CEO and possibly certain C-suite positions such as CFO. Extending beyond the C-suite, senior management must make sure that a mindset of preparing leaders for the future is imbedded in the DNA of the culture. Management performance metrics should track how effectively a leader develops and prepares capable employees to assume leadership roles.
Effective credit union leaders know that succession planning is not just a process for identifying replacements for management that leaves, advances, or retires. A well-executed succession plan enhances member service and provides financial results, because it is a fundamental way to infuse the organization’s culture with a win-win learning environment that engages your employees and sets up the conditions for them to thrive.