This morning I read a great piece from UK based HR site HR Review noting that according to a recent study, 39% of UK managers would feel insecure about the stability of their jobs if they had a potential successor waiting in the wings. You can read the full piece here.
As noted, the study respondents are all from the UK. Ergo, we can’t necessarily say that the results here reflect the sentiments of managers in other countries around the globe. But this number does jive with my own anecdotal experiences working as an HR pro in the U.S., and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that similar numbers hold true in other western and/or industrialized nations.
…Stepping back and exploring this for a moment, we know that organization’s benefit considerably from optimizing the knowledge management process. And in many cases part of this process involves transferring knowledge to a worthy successor. Conversely, we can also gleam that the idea of having a waiting-in-the-wings replacement makes a great deal of managers uncomfortable. And organizations need managers to be comfortable with the idea of a successor (or at least comfortable enough to train those successors). How do we rectify this conundrum?
In my mind the obvious answer is to establish a culture of promoting talent once there is a worthy successor on the bench. Much like two-week notice periods (if employees know said periods have historically been honored they are much more likely to give them before resigning), for succession planning to be successful talent needs to know it will be taken care of once there is someone behind them on the bench.
Such a promotion process requires cultural buy-in from the top down, though. Managers/Leaders at every level must have successors, lest they create a readiness bottleneck at some stage in the process. Organizations must also have a dignified way of dealing with talent that maxes out their capabilities. An up or out policy isn’t likely to produce a culture of knowledge sharing and transfer. And continuing to promote people past their level of competence is unlikely to help a firm, either. So that means figuring out how continue to move talent with more runway than their bosses up the ladder while still finding a place in the organization for those that plateau.
…Easier said than done, right? Do you have any insights? How is your organization rectifying the conflict between knowledge management / succession and job security? Does it have one? If not, how did it do away with it?
Lots of questions… as always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.