When thinking about succession planning, St. John recommends managers consider their talent options according to two specific domains: performance and potential. 

Performance management systems should include valid criteria for evaluating an employee’s performance. These could include client recommendations, workplace safety ratings, attendance and loyalty over time.

However, as St. John points out, identifying top performers is only part of the equation.

“You can have people who are amazing at what they do but have no interest in taking on any additional responsibilities,” she notes.

This reality hits close to home for Raines. In fact, it’s a source of concern and frustration.

“The chief supervisors that I inherited in my division have no desire for my position,” he says. “I want someone who says, ‘what do I have to do to get to your job level?’ But it’s tough to find those individuals when the people who are in their current positions have a decade left before they retire, and they have no ambition to move up.”

Whether facility managers resort to hiring someone externally or are lucky enough to identify a top performer interested in filling their shoes, they will need to assess that candidate’s emotional intelligence. 

“It’s not about their job title or how many people they manage,” says Gervino. “It’s about how they interact with other coworkers, customers and company executives. I gauge future management prospects by how well they work in collaboration with others. It’s emotional intelligence that makes or breaks good leadership.” 

Gervino admits that assessing emotional intelligence can be tricky; however, simply observing how the employee interacts with others is a good indicator. If hiring externally, she recommends a walkthrough of the department to observe how potential hires communicate with others: Do they greet people and shake hands? Do they ask questions? Do they walk through the department and just take everything in? 

Finally, Gervino and St. John recommend behavioral testing to assess whether or not the individual’s behaviors and values match those of the company and the department.   

“If succession planning is a function of performance and future potential, this is the best tool I know of to evaluate potential,” says St. John. “It’s an online assessment, and we use it for all new hires because we know people generally fail in their job not because of their abilities but because of their attitude.” 

A Shareable Plan

Whether executives are 15 years from retirement, like Raines, or on the home stretch, now is the time to identify and develop potential leaders and build a strategy for them to assume open positions. HR consultants suggest that managers confer with industry colleagues to find out what worked for them. St. John also recommends coming up with an initial plan before seeking professional help. 

“Do your homework first and try to come up with a plan on your own,” she says. “When you feel confident in your plan, a consultant can help you identify pitfalls, consider areas you hadn’t thought of yet and put their stamp of approval on it.”

Gervino suggests that managers map out positions by writing down everything that person does on a daily basis. For instance, if mapping an operations manager, tasks may include scheduling, staffing, supply chain issues and health and safety. Next, managers need to rank these key accountabilities in order of importance. 

“We use this tool to benchmark positions because often people hire or promote someone for the most important key accountability, but that may only take 10 percent of that person’s time,” she explains. “If that candidate isn’t experienced or behaviorally situated to handle everything else, they will likely fail.” 

After mapping the position, managers can begin the process of identifying their most promising candidates, according to their performance and potential. 

No doubt, detailed training procedures are a necessity for each position — something that Raines is learning the hard way.

“I’m training a new maintenance person right now, and it’s the first maintenance person that’s been trained on this campus in the last 25 years,” he says. “We don’t have any training procedures for the position because it’s something that hasn’t been done in two and a half decades.”  

Raines has made it his mission to change this. He also counsels facility cleaning managers to document their policies and procedures as soon as possible. 

“A lot of people in my world don’t like to share how we make our sausage,” he says. “But if you keep it quiet and you keep your cards close to your chest, no one will know that a particular initiative was a philosophy and a goal stemming from your division.” 

For up-and-coming supervisors, new directors or those getting ready to retire, Raines offers the following advice.

“Don’t be shy,” he says. “Write down what you do and put it into a binder. This includes the how-to operations manual, the expectations of the sustainability program, the maintenance program — all the things that you touch on or deal with in your day-to-day world. Write it down and get it published.” 

Kassandra Kania is based out of Charlotte, North Carolina and is a frequent contributor to Facility Cleaning Decisions. 

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Succession Planning Helps Soon-to-Retire Managers Transition to New Leadership