Part 1 - Develop your Leaders of Tomorrow Today: Succession Planning

Sarah McLeod | November-09-11





Preparing the Environmental Workforce for the Future 


Content written by: Julie Checknita, Employer Services

A recent ECO Canada survey found that a large portion of respondents wanted to see more content on succession planning. So here it is – over the next two weeks the HR blog will be dedicated to succession planning. Enjoy:
Experts have forecasted that by 2020, 23% of the environmental workforce in Canada will reach the age of retirement. These are some alarming numbers to most employers who anticipate growth in the industry and, most importantly, within their own companies. At first these forecasted shortages seemed to be so far into the distant future that many environmental employers paid little heed, but with this date quickly approaching and creeping into many companies’ strategic planning sessions, it has and will continue to become increasingly important for environmental employers to focus on succession planning. This planning will be imperative in ensuring that an adequate supply of talent is available to successfully meet strategic goals and attain long-term profitability.
According to a report published by the Conference Board of Canada, “by 2015, there will not be enough qualified people in Canada to fill the jobs available.” As a result of this, “employers will become locked in a war for employees as they struggle to hire and retain qualified workers.” ECO Canada reports that Canada’s environmental sector is facing a greater threat of labour shortages due to the combination of an aging workforce and a demand for employees that is expected to rise. “Over the next two years, 44% of environmental employers plan to hire environmental workers, up from 39% in the March 2008 to March 2009 period.”
Furthermore, environmental management and executives of the future will be expected to be more educated and skilled to develop and guide new global and technological initiatives. Because of these challenges, vigilant planning for the replacement of key employees has gained strategic significance in the eyes of many environmental employers.

Succession Planning for the Future

With adequate thought and preparation, organizations from all sectors can be better prepared to overcome the challenges associated with the generational transfer of leadership and knowledge. Succession planning, a key component of HR Management, acknowledges that employees will not be with an organization indefinitely and provides a plan for addressing the changes that will occur once they leave. Without plans in place to ensure that fundamental processes aren’t lost with departing employees, valuable time, productivity, client relationships and knowledge will also be lost. 
A central element in succession planning is identifying a match between the organization’s future needs and the aspirations and strengths of current, top performing employees. Leveraging the talent that the organization already possesses by developing it to full potential and providing learning and growth opportunities and a projected path into the future, increases both engagement and an employee’s dedication to the organization.  According to Michael Kerford, Vice President of ECO Canada, “Succession planning requires two important elements: understanding the long-term staff competency requirements to remain competitive and an ongoing commitment to building an engaged pipeline of junior and intermediate employees.” This commitment to talent development should be a part of the organizational culture and should be communicated clearly and frequently.
Establishing a succession planning culture within an organization conveys a message to staff that their contributions are valued and builds a culture that acknowledges the importance of career development and progression. This culture can also serve as a recruitment tool by establishing a reputation as an organization that invests in its people and provides opportunities and support for career advancement. 
Aligning a plan that supports the overall strategic direction of the organization is another important factor in succession planning.  This alignment helps increase buy-in from managers and executives, as they are more likely to support a system that visibly reinforces corporate objectives. In actuality, the succession planning process should be considered part of the organization’s strategic planning process, as it deals with projecting future changes by expecting key employee vacancies and determines how to meet these challenges. 
Michael Bowie, CFO of Summit Liability Solutions Inc. believes that “Having a succession program in place at Summit is vital to the long term success of the organization.”   This belief is reflected in Summit’s organizational practices as Michael elaborates, “we, as an ownership group are fully committed to succession planning through the development of our human capital from entry level all the way to our Executive. We strive to develop strong and capable leaders throughout the organization to guide the Team once we have passed the torch.” 
Although many succession plans focus on executive or senior management roles, it is just as important to consider all key roles when planning for the future. Key roles can be defined as those roles that are vital for the operations and success of your organization and, due to the skill, experience and seniority required, will be difficult to replace. It is especially important not to overlook this key aspect in your succession plan, as there will many employees who are not particularly interested in management roles. Even though, some of your key players may not be the people doing the succeeding, they must still be recognized as valuable contributors.