PowerBall succession planning

Do you play the lottery? Even if you don’t, you must have seen that PowerBall was up to $750 million last week. I heard on the news that a single ticket won the jackpot. The radio announcer said he didn’t know if it was one person, or a group who went in on the purchase, but one ticket won the whole thing. I got to thinking – what if it was a group of coworkers? What if they worked in my organization? What if they worked in yours? Are you ready for a mass exodus of frontline employees? It’s unlikely that you’ll have an entire team win the lottery together, but all it takes is one person’s spouse getting a new job in another state, someone else retiring, one with health problems and one internal promotion and you’ve got a perfect storm in one department.

We talk a lot about succession planning for those at the top of the org chart – the need to identify talent and transfer knowledge so that key positions aren’t left unfilled. But I don’t believe we spend enough time planning for turnover within departments and teams. Certainly HR needs to be proactive regarding engagement and retention so that our turnover rates are low and stable. But every once in a while events will come into play that require us to get an entire team restaffed overnight. When we think succession planning, this needs to be part of our strategizing.

What would you do? Do you have a talent pipeline queued up? Do you have a relationship with a staffing agency you trust to supply a cadre of temporary help? Do you have recruiters and a recruitment process that can be scaled if a sudden need occurs? Do you know who among your frontline employees are the natural trainers and cultural leaders, who might be transferred from one department to another if a situation arises? Even more, do you treat that training ability and cultural leadership with the same weight that you treat other key positions? Are you identifying newer employees that can be trained to carry the cultural torch if your frontline cultural leaders are the ones with the winning lottery ticket?

There are transitions we can see – aging workforces that we can predict will retire, unhappy teams that we can see preparing to jump ship. But even in engaged, highly functioning teams, outside forces can impact our business in seemingly random ways with no warning to speak of, just like a group of coworkers winning the lottery and heading to Tahiti without a backward look. When you do succession planning, are you considering every angle?

One thought on “PowerBall succession planning

  1. A good place to start is to look back to 1999, when companies were worried about Y2K. Would computers work? Would cars and public transit be available? At the time, I was on a committee at a large international corporation that was doing contingency planning. It wasn’t just the work (I was one of the few people who had been there long enough to know the manual entries for everything that was now computerized) but also the staffing. What could we do if people couldn’t commute to work or work from home? The first answer was cross-training. The more people who were trained to cover for other tasks, the better prepared we’d be. The second answer was to locate flexible employees who’d be willing to take on longer shifts while we brought in more staff, or to train such staff. HR needs to identify people who can learn, teach, and switch gears. They may be doing one job for their entire careers, but these people are like gold reserves in case of emergencies.


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