Keys to Management Succession Planning

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff September 22, 2006


Management succession planning is a critical part of any construction employer’s life cycle. Not only does it assure the employer’s survival, but it also gives employees and clients confidence that if something happens to the CEO (or any executive), the company will continue to succeed. Those construction employers who don’t invest in establishing the right management succession plan risk having their best people go somewhere else to build their careers.

With the global economy continuing its downturn, baby-boomer leaders retiring in droves and the competitive environment, construction employers scramble to prepare the new generation of leaders to take over. However, this is no easy task. Not only is finding and identifying the right leaders a challenge, but employers must also pick future leaders without causing resentment among those employees who aren’t chosen.

To create an effective management succession plan, construction employers should consider the following 10 keys:

1) Management succession planning starts at the top. Management succession planning needs to start at the very highest levels of the organization for it to be productive. Everyone at the very top–from the board members and owners to the CEO and senior HR executive–needs to be a part of the planning process.

2) Design the right succession planning system, and put it in writing. There should be a two-tiered management succession planning system that identifies the employer’s critical positions and all successors under consideration. One tier looks at short-term succession planning for openings that may come immediately or in a few years. The second tier should concurrently focus on grooming employees for top positions that will be available years into the future. Once the system has been properly formulated, it should be documented in writing, with regularly added reports tracking each successor’s progress.

3) Choose a sufficient number of successors and the right age bracket for each position. Typically, construction employees tapped for future leadership roles are in their 30s or 40s and are workers with a proven record at the company. There should be at least two candidates under consideration for each critical position.

4) Look for the “right” qualities in successors. When evaluating successors, it’s important to be able to identify and quantify the right qualities for each unique position. Hard and soft skills should also be adequately determine and evaluated.

5) Select successors based on behavior as well as performance. Employees are selected based on their behavior as well as their performance. In fact, some employers say behavioral traits, such as natural leadership and an ability to work with others, can be more critical since many people fail over behavioral issues. Yet performance issues can certainly remove prospects from consideration.

6) Be sensitive to those not chosen. Construction employers must be sensitive to the people who are not selected as successors. It’s important not to place too much emphasis on future leaders at the expense of other employees to avoid making those not chosen from feeling demoralized. Those not chosen must know that the employer supports them. The selection process should be confidential and the criteria used should not be well known. Another good reason for secrecy is to avoid making an implied promise.

7) Find out what the successors want. For succession planning to work, construction employers must find out what potential leaders want in terms of their career. Even though the employer may have bright plans for the successor, the successor may not want them. Find out what motivates the successors and work with them to help them achieve their own career ambitions.

8) Invest in training and development. Even with a sluggish construction marketplace, employers must invest in their successors by giving them adequate training and development, necessary leadership experience and quality mentorship. Employers must also create opportunities for advancement despite the current state of the marketplace.

9) Hold regular management succession planning meetings. As a general rule, key leaders should meet at least twice a year to discuss and identify potential successors and review the succession planning system.

10) Seek professional assistance. Given the critical nature of designing the right management succession plan, construction employers should engage the assistance of management consultants who specialize in management succession planning for construction employers. For free referrals to well-known, management succession planning experts, contact Construction Executive, LLC.