Maintenance & Operations (Managing the Physical Plant)

Succession Planning

How many of us take the time to review succession planning opportunities? The key word is time! With all the responsibilities and “balls in the air,” how do we find the time? We can always choose to “kick the can down the road,” or to use the sport vernacular, “just wait ‘til next year!” But should we?

Typically the succession planning process allows us to identify future departmental leaders, individual and organizational weaknesses, strengths and potential training/development opportunities for people within the organization. It sounds like a rather important part of any organization’s plan/strategy, but how many departments and/or organizations actually take the time to access their talent? That seems to be one of the most important aspects of succession planning! So how do we get started?

One of first things to put in place is performance evaluations. Set the interval of when to have them completed. Some organizations target the end of the year when pay increases are near, others establish dates based on the current organization’s schedule. Once the intervals are established, work with your team to have them performed in a timely manner and work on consistency related to expectations. Everyone seems to evaluate differently, so when establishing performance evaluation criteria this needs to be considered.

Performance Evaluations, a Rite of Passage

Summer is a busy time for most universities as preparations are underway to get the campus ready for the return of students, faculty and staff. Projects need to be scheduled so as to not interrupt classes or residential move in, but with the understanding there will always be the last-minute items and projects that must be completed.

Sometime during the year most organizations conduct employees’ evaluations. These annual evaluations give all of us a chance to pause, reflect and have a discussion on an individuals’ performance and the team’s performance. Don’t forget to include your own personal performance, as well as how everyone did regarding their goals and if they were they completed successfully. These evaluation discussions tend to gravitate toward items related to things gone right and things gone wrong throughout the past year. Don’t be afraid to raise the bar on accountability regarding expectations, and there must be commitment to the process related to both the supervisor and employee. There should be no surprises during the evaluation, and any performance issues should have been addressed throughout the year and at the time of the occurrence/issue as opposed to waiting for the annual evaluation.

Remember, in order for your team to improve and prosper, you need them to understand expectations. If you don’t meet with them throughout the year, how do you expect for them to improve their performance? It won’t happen thorough osmosis!

Consistency; Keeping It Real

One of the key items related to succession planning is creating a matrix with defined measurables for comparison and to help evaluate the individuals on your team. Each year you should rank your team members from top to bottom based on talent using this matrix as a guide. Some of the items I have seen used for these rankings, which typically have a rating attached to it, include: accomplishments, quality of work, professional knowledge, teamwork, leadership, resource management and communication. There can always be other criteria depending on the organization and department.

The first challenge has always been to have consistency when it comes to the individuals performing the ratings. Many organizations improve the consistency by conducting training classes on how to schedule and perform the individual appraisals. The second challenge is the ranking of the team members. This can be a very difficult task; work your way through it with your management team. Once the rankings are completed you will now have the opportunity to develop training for the team and for certain individuals while developing stretch assignments for the high-potential employees. Keeping in mind, of course, that past performance does not always guarantee a successful performance in the future.

If implemented and orchestrated correctly, succession planning identifies future leaders and high potentials. The process can be challenging, as there are always going to be political ramifications and emotional challenges related to the staff and organization. Remember this process is not the end-all but only the beginning.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

About the Author

Bruce A. Meyer, Ed.D., is assistant vice president of Campus Operations at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, appointed in April 2010. His team currently manages 5,000,000 square feet on a campus with over 20,000 students, faculty and staff.

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