The workforce is aging. As Baby Boomers approach retirement and are more and more prone to sudden illness and injury, the strategic organization of human capital is becoming more and more important.
While succession planning matters, it focuses on expected and permanent successorship. What will you do if your CEO is hospitalized with angina, your chief architect demands a summer-long leave of absence, or a bout of flu takes down your entire custodial staff?
Replacement planning is the process of arranging temporary coverage for key internal responsibilities. Having a plan in place before an emergency arises is critical to business continuity. If you’re among the 40% of companies that aren’t prepared for the emergency succession of the CEO, read on.
In some cases, replacing an important function on a temporary basis is relatively straightforward. Often, an experienced administrative assistant can manage most of the workload, while the absentee’s staff and colleagues fill in the gaps. For entry-level positions, chances are a temp agency can find someone on short notice.
Balancing the costs and benefits of naming temporary successors can be challenging. It’s important to consult widely, and consider maintaining confidentiality, in order to ensure office politics don’t become a distraction. Here’s a simple plan to help you get started:
1. Get a Commitment from Management.
Because this can be a fairly large project, with significant operational repercussions, it’s important that management commits to it. Cite the high costs of vacancies and of training new staff. If that doesn’t work, you might be able to appeal to a stubborn manager’s ego. Sell replacement planning by noting the importance of effective managers, stressing how helpless the company would be without them.
2. Determine scope.
What positions are you looking at? What length of time? A wide scope is great, but you need to be realistic with your time and resources, or you’re going to have trouble completing the project on schedule and on budget.
3. Let managers do the leg work.
Managers know their jobs, and those of their employees. They have a thorough understanding of their individual employees’ competencies. So let them plan replacements. Give them guidance and offer tons of assistance, but don’t needlessly step on toes. If selling the project wasn’t easy, implementing it definitely won’t be. Try to arrange for some informal group meetings, so that peer influence and competition can encourage progress.
4. Finalize and Act.
Once everything is planned, make it happen. Get approval from whoever you need to. Inform whoever needs to know. Then work to make sure that your replacements are ready to hit the ground running, if and when they’re called on.
Replacement planning is an ongoing process. Jimmy probably can’t fill in for Marsha if Jimmy left the company six months ago. Identify gaps, successes, and failures, and then start the process again. This is something you should consider doing on an annual basis.
HR sometimes struggles to get a seat at the table. If your replacement planning program gives you a role in filling everyone else’s seats, it should be much easier to pull up a chair for yourself.
If your CEO resigned tomorrow, would you be able to replace her?