Business training without execution is merely entertainment.
— Steve Adams
What About Succession Training?

What About Succession Training?

This week's post comes on the heels of speaking with a couple of clients about the challenges facing their business.  Like many businesses out there, they face the challenge of finding and retaining the best talent.  A shortage of skilled workers, combined with an aging group of subject matter experts (SMEs), has put the task of Succession Planning at the top of their list for 2018.

Then things got interesting.  While they were pleased with their efforts to identify those people who will "take the reigns", I had to raise my eyebrows when I asked about their plan on how those individuals were going to learn everything for the role they will be inheriting.

"Well they'll just sit with them, shadow them and take notes."

Of course, because that always works.

So while we all talk about Succession Planning and its importance (and it certainly is), answering the “Who” is only part of the task, and arguably the easier one.

So while we all talk about Succession Planning and its importance (and it certainly is), answering the "Who" is only part of the task, and arguably the easier one.  What about Succession Training, the "How"?  How will you take what your experienced people know and get it into a format that others can review, process and learn from?  How long will it take?

We are happy to confirm that learning by shadowing, while helpful to some extent, is not enough.  Here are some things to consider for maximum impact:

  1. Succession Training takes time, often a significant amount of it.  Your subject matter experts had years to learn and become skilled in what your successors need to learn in a matter of months.  In addition, much of what your experts know is probably not recorded in any manual.  The needed time varies greatly, but in general, we've found the observation alone takes 1-2 months.
  2. Have a Trainer do the initial observing to record and ask questions of the SME, not the successor.  This is what Trainers do, and they are probably better able to record what needs to be noted to turn the SMEs actions into a repeatable training program.
  3. Your successors are busy in their current roles as well; once the training program has been developed, meet with the successor to determine how often to meet based on his or her schedule as well as business needs.  If the SME can make it also, great.
  4. The SME is an expert in his or her field, but not a trainer.  If you want Succession Training to be most effective, have a Trainer be the primary facilitator.  This also takes the burden off of the SME.
  5. Want the training to be online or remote?  That's okay, but have a way for the successor to take plenty of notes and ask plenty of questions, both live and recorded.  Those questions should go to the Trainer first, not the SME.
  6. How can you tell if the successor really knows their stuff?  In other words, work with the SME and others to figure out ways to evaluate the successor on their progress.  Like any other training, you should have a method in place to determine if the Succession Training really is working or not.

Succession Training is the key second part of the process that turns the Succession Plan into something actionable.  Whether you choose to get outside help such as from THTE or do it in-house, the tips above are good things to keep in mind.

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