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The Sustainable Workplace: Training Your Successor

CCA LiveE | Wednesday January 2nd, 2013 | 0 Comments

This is part of a series of articles by MBA students at California College of the Arts dMBA program. Follow along here.

i-love-my-jobBy Alex M. Vazquez

It just happens. Amidst all of the meetings, managing a department, and cutting costs in a struggling economy, a key employee just resigns.   A slight panic ensues as the search begins to find and train a replacement as quickly as possible. And in the meantime, I must take on the extra workload created by the employee’s absence. I find myself asking, “Was there anything I could have done differently to avoid this situation?”

Turnover has high costs that range from 10 to 30 percent of the employee’s annual salary. The costs are both direct expenses such as recruiting and the expense of the loss of productivity and institutional knowledge.

There is a wide array of both articulated and unarticulated reasons why someone leaves their job. Managers who focus on development and training their successors at every opportunity can avoid many of these reasons.  These are the managers who see a thriving employee as someone who can be trusted and trained to take on new responsibilities and potentially move into a management position. They build skills and leadership training into their daily interactions with staff. The impact of this perspective on culture can be immense, as staff will know they are highly valued by both their manager and the company. It enables a culture of ongoing learning, innovation, and teambuilding, which is vital to a sustainable workplace. By empowering staff through training and developing new skills, companies can retain high performing, loyal staff and avoid the high costs of recruiting and training a new employee.

When managers are exposed to this perspective, the first response may be a combination of, “How do I keep my highly trained staff from leaving or what if they take my job?” Of course, there is no way of ensuring that an employee will not leave the company, but by implementing the practice of training your successor, you can ensure the company has a strong pool of employees to pull from, in the event a position becomes available. You will not be left wondering how you are going to fit an entire recruitment and training cycle into your already busy workday, because you will already know of internal candidates that are qualified for the job. As for the concern of someone replacing you – don’t forget that as you train someone in a job or skill that you possess, it allows you to show your ability at developing high functioning staff and opens you up to gaining additional skills as you will have more time to pursue those opportunities, for your own development and for the company’s growth.

What would it look like if your managers had created a culture of training a successor at every opportunity?  What would it have looked like for you in that position and for the company?  This level of investment into staff will be reciprocated either by successful staff performance or by establishing a reputation of a culture of development, which will be highly sought after by job seekers. By training your successor, it will increase the productivity, skill and innovation of your workforce, allow you to better retain top talent, and give you a faster, more effective response mechanism to change


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