Passing The Torch

How does ongoing training lead to successful succession planning? Different types of training and educational offerings provided by NNPS ensure there is a deep bench of well-equipped, highly-qualified employees ready to take over when key vacancies occur. Another critical component of successful succession planning is to identify potential vacancies and develop transition plans to ensure the outgoing employee has time to document their work and properly train their replacement.

For management positions at NNPS, the first step was to determine when key employees nearing retirement were planning to leave. This was done simply by asking and committing the information to a list, after which a transition plan was developed.

For example, two years prior to our director retiring, he began assigning some of his tasks to the maintenance supervisor who operated functionally as the assistant director and was in-line to assume the role. These tasks included attending meetings both alongside the director and on his behalf, as well as providing routine reports to upper management.

As the director’s retirement date neared, he transitioned more complex tasks to the maintenance supervisor. Initially, the director maintained close supervision but over time provided more autonomy and execution authority to his replacement.

As part of this process, the director created documents to serve as primers on the various functions of the job and to aid the maintenance supervisor once he assumed the role of director. In anticipation of the promotion, the maintenance supervisor brought in trade supervisors as apprentices for his position, which would be vacant upon promotion. This allowed other employees who had successfully completed the training program to see themselves advance in their careers at NNPS — while maintaining vast amounts of historic knowledge within the department.

As many cleaning professionals know, workers in the trades are getting more difficult to find. After struggling to find qualified workers, NNPS became a sponsoring organization for the DPOR-regulated apprenticed trades. This included working with local community colleges and trade schools, identifying those who would soon complete their formal education and were ready to begin their required four years of applied experience.

NNPS now provides apprenticeship experience to students who worked under licensed Master level tradesmen employed by NNPS. These student apprentices are initially hired at a lower wage, but are eligible to receive full benefits as school division employees. Upon apprenticeship completion, students receive a promotion and standard wage for the trade they are working in if they commit to work for NNPS an additional two years.

After six years with NNPS, these trades workers are fully vested in the state retirement plan. These benefits are highly competitive and hard to beat in the private sector, leading to long-time NNPS employees who bring a wealth of experience and historic knowledge to their work.

There are many reasons employee training is an important aspect of succession planning. However, if you haven’t started at this point, you’re likely behind the eight ball. Establish a list of who’s retiring and get started. You may not have as much time than you think.

Keith Webb recently retired as Executive Director of Plant Services for Newport News Public Schools after 28 years of service. He is a committee member of Healthy Green Schools & Colleges as well as Virginia School Plant Management Association.

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Tips For Employee Succession Plans