It should not matter if your company has five people or fifty people, you should always be looking to train your successor.  With a limited number of people replacing baby boomers in the workforce over the next 10 years, it is critical to grow up your internal talent.  I would like to discuss a few key points:

  • Keeping your best people challenged- There are many reasons to challenge your team, but not all of them are obvious.  I believe that in order to keep a person on their toes, they should always be training their replacement.  I believe this lines up with a philosophy of not focusing on the immediate needs, but on a long term goal for your company or division.  Michael Gerber focuses on this core philosophy in his E-Myth series.  “Work on your business, not in your business.”  Without taking this high level approach, there is no upward push from behind and there is no desire for a manager to push themselves past the status quo.
  • The talent pool is thin- between the retirement of baby boomers and the recession forcing companies to keep their very best talent, there is a smaller pool of available and qualified talent.  It is critical that companies look into their own ranks for upward promotion.
  • Create an actual program- It may be a very loose structure, but there needs to be a defined line of succession.  Some companies may simply call their replacement an assistant.  Assistant manager, vice president, etc…  If a company or division has the resources a group could be assembled for mentorship and acceleration of talent.

As long as a the company leadership is developing its internal talent, the firm will always be pushing the bounds of their peoples’ ability.  Both managers and mentors will feel a sense of possibility in training their replacement; key positions will be deeper and junior employees will find upward learning and opportunity without looking for outside positions.  Keep in mind replacement costs and training without any plan for those key positions.

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