Succession Planning for Success

Succession Planning for Success
Paige Sherriff

Skills development and succession planning is essential for the future and health of businesses in the furniture sector

Today, it is more vital than ever for companies to invest in their long-term strategic growth by cultivating future leaders. Succession planning coupled with leadership development is an investment in human resources that pays massive returns in productivity by unlocking the potential of employees.

Paige Sherriff, the project manager of the eThekwini Furniture Cluster (EFC) says these are two essential areas of focus for any company that is concerned with its current and future progress.

“Senior leadership teams in the sector are struggling to focus on strategic and proactive growth as they are so busy handling day-to-day operational and production challenges,” Paige explains.

She says that building up, empowering and capacitating individuals with the leadership potential to identify and solve operational challenges is fundamental to giving leadership the space for business development, new product development and strategic planning.

“This combination means that instead of searching for a good fit for a key position in an industry with already limited skills, firms can find themselves in a position where they have a readily accessible and reliable conduit for developing leadership talent and a strong succession pipeline,” Paige adds.

To do this successfully, Paige offers four key guidelines:

1. Focus on Development

Succession planning must be a flexible system oriented toward development activities, but it’s not just about training. Any learning is far more effective when it’s coupled with real-life exposure. Action-learning programmes serve a dual purpose: they provide developmental experiences for employees – who look beyond functional silos to solve major problems and thus learn something of what it takes to be a general manager – and they continue to deliver a useful work product for the company.

2. Training for Key Positions

Whereas succession planning generally focuses on top positions, leadership development usually begins in middle and lower management. Collapsing the two functions into a single system allows for a long-term view of the process of preparing lower-level employees for more responsibility. Succession planning should therefore focus on key positions – jobs that are essential to the long-term health of the business and are typically difficult to fill. Developing the skills required for these roles will help identify experience or performance issues that could impact a promising employee’s promotion. The result is a pool of potential successors rather than a few leading contenders.

3. Make It Transparent

Traditionally, succession planning has been shrouded in secrecy to avoid sapping the motivation of those who aren’t on the fast track. The idea is that if employee’s don’t know where they stand (and they stand on a low rung), they will continue to strive to climb the ladder. This thinking worked well in an older, paternalistic age, but given that employee contracts are usually based on performance, people will contribute more if they know what rung they’re on. Employees are also often the best source of information about their skills and experiences and if they know what they need to do to be a contender, they can take the steps needed.

4. Measure Progress Regularly

When companies move away from a ‘replacement’ mindset and meld leadership development and succession planning, measuring success is much easier. It’s not enough to know who could replace a key manager; instead, companies have a detailed plan to ensure that the right people are moving at the right pace into the right jobs at the right time. Frequent checks throughout the year can reveal potential issues before they arise.

Succession planning and leadership development are critical to the skills required for the continued growth and transformation of the furniture sector. To support this, Paige says that the EFC has developed specific Skills Development programmes for high potential employees ranging from supervisors through to mid-to senior management.

“The EFC offers two online training programmes to assist companies in the sector with the development of leaders. Our Team Leader Development Programme unlocks productivity, stability and innovation from the frontline workforce while the Emerging Leader Development Programme is focussed on equipping future leaders with the management and leadership skills to drive strategic implementation,” Paige explains.

As the training for these two programmes is delivered online, participants learn at their own pace – with companies benefitting from this scalable, cost-effective learning model. These programmes are offered as a free benefit to EFC members while non-members can either choose to join the cluster or enroll their high potential employees for a fee.

Paige says that any companies that are interested in the EFC Skills Development Programmes are invited to a briefing session on Thursday, 28 October. For more information on the EFC or to participate in the upcoming event, email [email protected]