senior employee retirementLet’s face it.  Leadership change is inevitable.  With the baby boom generation – a whopping 29% of the Canadian population, according to Statistics Canada – reaching retirement age, a significant portion of the workforce may be retiring in the next few years from companies across the country.  These employees possess many years of experience and accumulated knowledge that cannot be easily replaced, and their exit could leave a large gap in your company.  Is your business prepared?

Veteran employees have been with your company years.  More than likely, their role within your company has grown and evolved since they first started with the business.  Sure, they might have started out as entry-level employee with a defined job description, but have they taken on new responsibilities since then?  Have they become the department’s go-to person?  Your veteran employee’s role may be organized around the individual’s skills, rather than the job’s function within the company.  When that employee is gone, it could become extremely difficult for your company to find a suitable replacement.

Chances are that a new employee, however skilled, would be unable to take on a veteran employee’s complete job functions.  Your business may even need to train or hire two or three people to assume roles that were once filled by one person.  If you find your business in this position, here’s the basic process for getting the successors up-to-speed:

1.       Define veteran employee’s job responsibilities and skills

If there is no job description for the employee’s current job functions, your company may wish to create one, since it will form the basis for future successor identification and development.  If you do have a job description, specifics about the employee’s functions may be gathered from interviews with the veteran employee.

The information gathered during this process could include:

  • Specific skills sets needed for the job role
  • Associated problems and solutions for the job role
  • Resources needed to perform the job role
  • Interpersonal skills needed for the job role
  • Performance expectations and benchmarks
  • Personal skills needed for the job role

 Knowledge Capture

Based on the information gathered, you can then identify any overarching themes in the job analysis. These themes may become the basis for separate job functions.  For example, a veteran employee’s functions may be divided into accounting and inventory management roles.

2.       Identify successors

Once the job functions have been defined, your company must decide which employees will become successors to the veteran employee.  The ideal successor will be familiar with your corporate culture, be able to meet the skill requirements of the job, possess potential to excel in the job, and have a genuine desire to assume the new position.  Successors can be identified in many ways; methods may include written knowledge exams, employee interviews, and performance reviews.

3.       Develop successors to assume new job functions

When successors have been identified, your company can provide training that will decrease the gap between the skills needed for the new role and the employees’ current skills.  To make this training effective, it is essential to provide employees with the chance to apply new skills on-the-job.  Mentoring and job shadowing are two training options that allow employees to try their hand at new job functions under the direction of other experienced employees.

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