ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

SUCCESSION PLANNING - Preparing Management Succession Before They Get That Promotion

What do you think about Succession Planning in regards to ownership transitions. Succession Planning actually defines preparing your staff members to transition into more important roles in the agency, regardless of ownership potential.

An error made in most agencies in the U.S. and brokerages in Canada is that even if management identifies the ‘up-and-comers’ in the organization, their eventual promotion usually come as a surprise, albeit a pleasant one in most cases. The unfortunate thing is that the employee is rarely prepared for the transition requiring months and years of inefficient performance as they become educated and accustomed to their new role.

Our experience tells us that agency owners usually know who they desire to promote. But few create a formal Succession Plan that shows the entire organization with likely successors identified for each position in the event of the departure of the predecessor from that position.

So if, God Forbid, someone dies, becomes disabled, decides to retire or is slated to move to a new position in the organization or outside of it, even the most likely successor is usually not prepared to step in and take over without a long training and familiarization period.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Once each year, the agency owner(s) and/or the Management Team should define an organization chart with every person and position noted on it. This is the template for the team to identify the most likely candidates for each position in the agency should something happen to the incumbent.

This process and document is usually not public information. It is a tool for management to see the ebbs and flows of the organization and to have at its disposal the most likely candidates should a crisis occur.

However, the purpose of the exercise of Succession Planning is not the morbid thought of who takes over a role if the incumbent is no longer able to function. It is the preparation of successors so that any future role advancement, especially in management positions, be as seamless as possible.

Most people we would choose to become managers are already competent and motivated in their current positions. It is certainly NOT inappropriate to tell them in their annual review that they are being considered (no guarantees in life) for promotion and you will be offering them training toward that potential eventuality.

You may enjoy the feeling of gratitude if you promote someone who had no idea that the advancement was a possibility, but you will quickly see the expression of shock and fear when they realize that they are stepping into new roles for which they have no real preparation. Good salespeople don’t equate to good managers and motivators of others. They need training. Good service people and administrators don’t necessarily understand how to manage workflows and their human resources. They need training. You will benefit, the agency and the people being considered for career advancement by removing the “surprise” and replacing it with a series of training exercises that show the candidates and you whether they are capable, desirous and would be good at the next level of position in the agency. Whether it takes one year or several years, it sure doesn’t hurt to have prepared successors for the management positions that you or others may leave for bigger and better things in the future. And, if a crisis occurs, each successor will be better off than being thrust into a position with your confidence but no training and preparation.