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Spotlight on Walden // Sep 12, 2013

Designing Your Organization to Be Successful in the Long Term

“There are 70 million baby boomers across the private and public sectors. As they leave the workforce, the effects will be felt throughout the economy,” says Dr. Raymond Marbury ’12, a Walden University Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) alumnus with a notable career. Not only is he a program manager at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the CEO of Education Institute of Capitol Hill LLC, and an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, he is also an author and public speaker who frequently addresses the subject of succession planning.

“This is one of the reasons why it is so important to prepare for a transition in leadership. There are not enough mid-level employees to assume operations if the senior leaders retire,” he continues. “Succession planning is about having the right people in the right jobs at the right time and having successors in place with the ability to lead and develop competence.”

Dr. Marbury is in a position to know: He wrote his doctoral study on the subject. Succession should be viewed as a long-term plan, he explains—one that involves not only leadership at an organization, but also every employee. The goal should be to determine and train employees who will take over leadership at the company when members of the current generation have to take long-term absences or retire. “I define succession planning as having the right people in the right place at the right time to continue and maintain operations in an organization,” he says. How do you get started? Here, he outlines the process:

Benefit your company’s bottom line. “Implementing a plan now will save your company money,” Dr. Marbury explains. Draw up a plan to show the return on investment (ROI) analysis that clearly articulates the cost savings if it is implemented. “When you make investments through training and development, it decreases workforce cost over time,” he says. “For example, in a case study at Nations Hotel, investing in executive coaching programs produced a 221% ROI for every dollar spent. Another example is Cracker Box Inc., where investments in training programs delivered an ROI of 298%, roughly $3 for every dollar spent.”

Make knowledge available to all. Once you’ve begun succession planning, remember that knowledge is no longer powerful when held by individuals; it’s powerful as a group resource. Encourage everyone to be transparent. “When you don’t transfer knowledge from one set of employees to another, you spend significant resources training a new set of employees,” he explains. “Transfer knowledge regularly so you can continue to improve your operations.”

Connect employees born in different generations. Today’s workforce comprises four generational cohorts: traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y (also called millennials). “This is the first time in our nation’s history that four cohorts have worked side by side,” he says. “Be aware that each generation has a different learning style.”

Encourage collaboration and teamwork. Make an effort to mold your company’s learning style and ask your employees to adopt it. “Ask your employees to think strategically, look at the total organization, and value team building—not individualism,” he continues. “Collaboration and teamwork contribute to the effectiveness of an organization.” Knowledge transfer will not only save your company money, it will also allow your company to thrive since training is ongoing.

Invest in your team. Finally, identify and cultivate future leaders in your company so they can step into leadership roles as employees retire. “Leadership continuity is the backbone of succession planning. Be proactive, anticipate problems, and develop solutions before problems arise,” Dr. Marbury says. “Ultimately, you’ll save money and, more importantly, improve your company.”