Succession planning is a common, but incredibly important topic that should become a focal point of any organizational assessment exploring strengths and opportunities for improvement; especially those dealing with responsible governance (Bailey, 2017). By definition, this process identifies vacancies expected to occur through retirement or attrition and strategic consideration of when, where, and how internal candidates could fill those vacancies (Gundy, 2017). It involves assessing the knowledge, experience, and skills of existing employees within the context of organizational needs, while allowing identified gaps to be addressed with educational programs and experience opportunities in areas of weakness.
When accomplished effectively, this planning can be an important way to recognize employees who possess, or have the potential to develop, attributes that can help them become successful within an organization or industry as a whole. Employers may realize similar benefits, as agencies become better prepared to replace key personnel and deficiencies identified through comprehensive agency assessments can be mitigated through targeted development activities to improve performance outcomes. Additionally, the benefits of planning activities extend well beyond performance management and competency maintenance by actually improving morale and engagement; as consistent feedback, opportunities for supported growth, and fulfilling assignments in varied areas allows personnel to develop an intimate familiarity with the organization they someday may lead (Delves, 2011).
According to Gale (2013), three of the most common mistakes organizations make with their succession planning are;
- Exclusive focus on top executive positions
- Leadership development is too limited
- Failure to train for the future
To avoid such pitfalls, industry experts including the Leadership Development Group (2015) recommend an equally focused triad;
- Assess current personnel attributes and identify skill or experience gaps for future roles.
- Create training, mentoring and leadership opportunities to close the gaps.
- Create a list of two to three candidates for every top position.
Extending beyond this sage advice is the need to demonstrate commitment to the program and to illustrate its importance to the organization by allocating time and resources commensurate with its potential to influence the future; as succession planning without investing in development becomes a useless exercise in futility(Luby & Stevenson, 2016). Moreover, the consequences of failing to adequately plan will supply ample evidence to the wisdom of such actions, without unfortunately, the ability to avoid the challenges associated with scrambling to fill vacancies, the loss of institutional knowledge, and over-promoting unqualified individuals.
Like the fire service in general, the International Association of Firefighters and its many affiliate organizations lag behind the private sector in managing these inevitable transitions in leadership. While many acknowledge the issue, few adequately explore the topic with appropriate depth and an even smaller percentage takes steps to actually address their concerns. Some exceptions do exist and the IAFF’s 7thDistrict has provided a challenge to all locals with their “The New Fire Fighter Conference,” designed to assist with succession planning for every local and state office. They educate and mentor new leaders in this and other advanced programs, like the “Executive Leadership Series,” tailored to those who attended most IAFF classes in the past and have vast knowledge and experience (Walsh, 2018). The Leadership program developed by Local 3573 has accepted this challenge and hopes to exceed its success.
Bailey, D. (2017, May 17). Is your bench ready? Six reasons that it may not be. Retrieved from https://www.nist.gov/blogs/blogrige/your-bench-ready-six-reasons-it-may-not-be
Delves, D. (2011, April 15). The Critical Task of Succession Planning. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/donalddelves/2011/03/31/the-critical-importance-of-succession-planning/#1a0ed5cc3323
Gale, S. F. (2013, March 11). Succession planning roadmap. Retrieved from https://www.workforce.com/2013/03/11/succession-planning-roadmap/
Gundy, C. (2017, March 9). The importance of succession planning. Retrieved from http://www.apsco.org/article/the-importance-of-succession-planning-3069.aspx##
The Leadership Development Group. (2015, April 1). Focus on your talent : The importance of succession management. Retrieved from https://www.tldgroupinc.com/succession-management/
Luby, V., & Stevenson, J. E. (2016, December 7). 7 tenets of a good CEO succession process. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/12/7-tenets-of-a-good-ceo-succession-process
McCarthy, D. (2015, December 22). 10 Succession Planning Best Practices - Ivy Exec Blog. Retrieved from https://www.ivyexec.com/executive-insights/2013/10-succession-planning-best-practices
Moore, J. (2017, August 4). The critical importance of succession planning. Retrieved from https://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2017/08/04/critical-importance-succession-planning/
Richards, L. (2018, August 1). Why Is succession planning important in performance management? Retrieved from https://smallbusiness.chron.com/succession-planning-important-performance-management-4593.html
Talent Intelligence. (2013, June 19). Succession planning best practices. Retrieved from http://www.talentintelligence.com/blog/bid/296450/3-succession-planning-best-practices
Walsh, R. (2018, August). 7th District report | IAFF Convention 2018. Retrieved from https://convention2018.iaff.org/7th-district-report/