managers progressing up the ladder to advance in the company

I have been thinking about succession planning in my department a lot lately — especially as I consider my senior leadership team (including myself). Most of us on the team are nearing retirement and preparing to transition into the next phase of our lives.

Over the last four years, I have attended dozens of retirement parties for my baby boomer colleagues, and I expect to see this trend continue for the next couple of years. But, I realize this type of turnover isn’t just happening at my university. Based on what I’ve read, I understand it’s a national concern throughout all industries, despite the trend of some baby boomers working longer than previous generations.

This means that succession planning is important for all of us, but I find myself wondering what succession planning is really all about. How do you know if people in your organization with leadership potential are developing? Will they be prepared to move up to a more senior role or assume more responsibilities within the organization when there is a need? 

Only time will tell. However, I think my department is establishing a culture where front-line cleaning workers can see that there truly are opportunities to learn, develop and move up within the organization.

Succession Planning

In my opinion, the first component of succession planning is showing people that there are opportunities to grow within the organization. 

Another component is providing employees the opportunity to excel and contribute to the mission in ways that might not be specific to how they carry out their cleaning duties.
Currently, we provide that type of opportunity by ensuring more than half of our custodians participate in Lean Process Improvement activities. We incorporate team building, problem solving, goal setting and recognition into our program. If someone becomes the informal leader of their Lean team, they are nurtured and given additional learning opportunities.

Future leaders must also be strong communicators, so we have been offering English classes for non-native speakers (known as English in the Workplace) for nearly 20 years. More than 150 custodians have taken three or more courses during that time span.

Additionally, leadership candidates must be familiar with the variety of tasks that a supervisor or manager needs to address on a daily basis. To assist in that, we offer our Stepping Stones for Success program (a nine-month supervisory development course) that has led to eight promotions (to supervisor and manager positions) among the 56 graduates over the last five years. Nearly all the Stepping Stones graduates are performing higher level duties to cover for supervisors when they’re on leave.

Testimonials from individuals who have enrolled in English classes and/or the Stepping Stones program reaffirm the value of these offerings. Each participant reported that what they learned has helped them not only professionally, but in their personal lives with family and community.

Knowing that the programs have this level of impact is the real reward. Equally rewarding is how these courses give people a sense that the Building Services Department leadership truly cares about the future of their employees, which fosters commitment to our department. 

We also want supervisors and managers to grow. They’re encouraged to attend professional development courses, seek certifications and attend conferences. In fact, every quarter we report how many educational hours each leader has accumulated. Specific targets for each level have been set in order to help our leaders continuously grow their skill set.

I have seen firsthand how such programs contribute to creating a culture of ongoing learning and growth. If you have not already done so, I highly suggest launching educational and development programs within your department. Start with a pilot and build as you learn.

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Prepare Prospective Cleaning Leaders