When does succession planning start? Some have posited that it starts when the CEO (or the executive who will soon be leaving) identifies several in their midst who appear to be likely candidates to step into the their shoes. The candidates are sort of taken under wing and given projects that will amplify the native skills and talents while also prodding creative thinking and strategy issues. The mentor will interlace these with conversations about not only theory but also practice. And guidance will come through being engaged in the projects together so that the progress, strategies, and rationale can be discussed.
Similar to Youth Development
Succession planning in the business world is not that different from teaching youth. The difference is that in the business world, we’re working on fine tuning competencies and empowering to lead in a responsible way. With youth, we’re developing core competencies and critical thinking skills. We’re also leading them to their introduction to the world of work, wherever that may be for their talents, as well as how to be responsible and mature.
Even when they’re in school, the purposes of the classes such as getting to class on time, turning in assignments, reciting before the class, and so on, all relate to being in the real work world. They are part and parcel of training to be a responsible, intelligent part of the workforce. Unfortunately, school is a bit theoretical for the youth. It’s difficult for the various exercises to be palpable. The age old complaint about “Why do I need to learn this? It doesn’t have anything to do with [insert name of profession or discipline here].” Ah, my petulant pupil, it has everything to do with it, and more.
Putting Context to Theory
I’ve talked about it many times over the years. There’s the fourth Thursday of April each year when Ms. Foundation promotes its Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. It’s a day when the practice and the theory become actualized at a real workplace. The youth have an opportunity to be in the real workplace and be involved in part of the processes that create the enterprise. It’s a time when many of the pieces can fall together and form a better picture of what it’s all about; youth have a chance to realize the answers to their strident grousings about the relevance of what they’re doing.
But the day needs to be kept relevant. This isn’t a day for sending the youth to the copying center or collating and stapling mountains of forms. For the day to be meaningful, this should be a day when the youth shadows a particular role model or mentor who includes the youth in the various aspects of doing that job. For example, there should be opportunity for understanding the reports that need to be prepared. In fact, it would be a good idea to have them be involved in the preparation of a report, along with the research to create it, and a conversation about what the report should deliver to its audience.
Follow Up and Follow Through
The young interns spend only one day in the real workplace on this Thursday in April. Many think of it as a day for the kids and then back to the usual. Hold up. Anything done deserves to be done well. Anything done well deserves recognition in some way.
The youth were given permission to miss a school day of attending classes in order to have their one day in the life of an intern. When they return to school, their teachers will want to have an oral report on what transpired, especially as it relates to their middle or high school subject, so that there’s accountability. But the oral report can also serve to make this occasion viral and inspire other students to vie for the opportunity to spend a day in the real work world in the following year.
Meanwhile, it would be wise for the oral report to be reduced to writing and shared with the coordinator of the TODSTWD event. The report will serve as feedback on what was learned and what revelations occurred during the one-day internship. The coordinator can then share the information with the mentor so they have some appreciation of how effective they were as a role model.
What Industries, What Businesses
Even though this article is written with deference to a business that sits in some office building, the dynamics of the day and the purpose of it is not constrained to just an office setting. There are all types of businesses. We would do well to let ourselves as well as our youth begin to see the world as more than just a brick and mortar site.
There are alternative careers in forestry, many aspects of beauty and fashion, services from keysmithing to plumbers. Many young people think of the local fast food franchise as their “just out of high school” option. But what would it take to run the independent store that competes with that franchise? Perhaps a mortician or a minister could get involved in making the day meaningful for a new generation of service providers. As stressful as it is, getting to know the other side of social work is also an option that should be available to the youth so that they gain a better understanding of the governmental side of the picture.
But even more can come out of the day’s events and follow-up reports. How well did these sycophants perform? Maybe they’re worth having return for more than one day. Perhaps they could be interns during the summer months or be involved in some type of work-study program designed to train them for a more involvement in the business. And that just may lead to developing your company’s pipeline of qualified candidates in the future.