Succession planning

Succession planning is an important part of every printing business strategy. The reality is that the business will lose talent over time, whether through retirement, promotion or staff attrition. And as is often the case, these leadership and talent gaps will occur when the business least expects it, just when the company needs the management and leadership talent to get it through a rough patch.

Creating a succession plan should not left until someone is close to leaving. Printing business owners need to start preparing now. They need a management succession plan to fill jobs as soon as they become vacant, and it has to be done seamlessly.

Good succession plans have several components in place and work around processes like mentoring, coaching, training and development, education, job rotation, and formalised feedback.

Most printers would agree that the vast majority of real learning and skills that people pick up happens on the job. This means printing business owners need to design the work so that learning takes place and skills are imparted in the workplace.

This could involve special assignments, seconding the trainee manager-leader into certain key roles, action learning where they develop problem solving strategies and web-based educational activities which can be scheduled at any time. Indeed, computer based technology has given business owners the scope to monitor development as it goes along.

Most importantly, they have to consider the employee’s ambitions. That means sitting down and talking to the employee and finding out about their career preference. They then have to try to match their interests and career development with a future role in the company.

The important part here for the business owner to ask themselves where they see the business in four or five years’ time. A good succession plan is linked to what the business is all about, where it’s going, and how it will get there. If the succession plan is out of sync with all of that, it is doomed to fail.

In the event of the business owner planning to exit the business, the succession plan to the new owners, which can often be the managers inside the business, needs to be seamless. The succession plan in that case needs to have financing options and a timeline for implementation.

But in any case, business owners should be upfront about their succession plan. Doing that reassures everyone that the business is on the right track.

A succession plan is important because it signals to the rest of the company that the business owner is focused on everyone’s long term future by taking steps to protect the company from the upheaval that happens when there are unexpected departures.

It also assures clients and customers that they can continue to expect the same quality of service and products as the company goes through change.

And importantly, it ensures employees that the company is focused on developing talent within the organisation. It reassures everyone that they have a career path and that with targeted education, training and coaching, they will move into key positions. That will align employees with the business objectives.

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