By Elizabeth Eyre and the Mind Tools Team
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Succession Planning

Seamlessly Transferring Key Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

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Make sure knowledge, skills and experience are handed on.

You've heard the statistics: the Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) is just starting to reach retirement age. Soon, huge numbers of people will leave the workplace.

More important, perhaps, is the huge amount of knowledge that will leave along with those people. But whether it's many Baby Boomers who retire, or one key manager who finds another job, you need to be prepared for losing key people.

Traditionally, organizations have been concerned about losing a CEO or other high-level executive. Will the company be able to continue operations? Who will lead while a replacement is being sought? Will there be a smooth transition?

A Wealth of Knowledge

These questions are certainly important at the top. However, you probably have many key positions within your organization, at many levels. People in these positions often possess an incredibly complex collection of knowledge, much of which is intuitive and difficult to replace quickly.

Let's look at an example. Mark, the key accounts manager, knows that your top client likes to discuss business over lunch at Hy's Steak House, that the client's favorite drink is an apple martini, that she's very involved in Doctors Without Borders, and that her son is studying to be a doctor, just like his dad. Mark also knows that talking with the client about her family and volunteer work is part of the yearly ritual of getting her to renew her contract.

Rosemary in accounting knows that TMX Supply is always at least one month behind in paying their invoice. But the CEO's brother-in-law owns TMX Supply, and there's an unwritten arrangement to not charge late payment fees.

If Mark or Rosemary leaves the company, the wealth of knowledge and intimate, critical details that they've built over the years are at risk of leaving too.

How do proactive companies lower the risk of losing this knowledge? They use succession planning practices throughout their organizations. In other words, they actively plan for continued corporate success if key people leave.

As a leader, you need to plan for specific knowledge transfer, as well as for continuity of the culture and values that your staff and customers have come to expect. This takes a two-part approach:...

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