Does your company have succession planning in place? What about for administrative professionals?

Succession planning is a key strategy for ensuring that your company can keep operating at an optimum level, no matter who is coming or going. Most corporations will have some sort of succession plan in place for the C-Suite, but often overlook other roles.

Administrative professionals tend to play a critical part in the operations of the companies they work for, and succession planning is something that should be considered for them, too. Here’s why:

Succession planning in companies

Succession planning is all about protecting the future of your company, so that you can keep key skills and talent coming up through your pipeline. It’s about identifying the crucial skills and knowledge your company needs to keep going, as well as key relationships and organizational practices. Basically, the idea is that if a person leaves tomorrow, you would be able to keep operating as close to your normal level as possible.

It’s important to have succession planning in place for your leadership roles and other key positions to ensure that other people are developing the necessary skills. This should directly impact your training plans for team members. Most corporate leaders think of this when considering their C-Suite teams, but administrative professionals and other administrative roles are often overlooked.

Why you need a succession plan for APs

Most companies with administrative professionals rely on them as a right hand. They hold all sorts of knowledge, skills, and relationships that are critical for operations. For anyone on your team who holds AP or administrative roles, what would you do if they gave their notice tomorrow? Would things keep humming along, or would there be hiccups?

What about the task of finding a replacement? If you have to hire externally, it takes time and money as you place advertisements and screen applicants (or use an agency to do so). Then there’s the cost of training someone new. There will always be a lag period as they learn the ins and outs of the role and sometimes, that can be expensive for your company.

Developing talent internally is much better bang for your buck than headhunting and other hiring and training activities. With succession planning in place, you can avoid a longer ramp-up to the new role and have someone step in who already knows the business.

Consider also that the average age of an administrative professional is 48 years old, with a considerable number among the Baby Boom generation working as corporate APs and due to retire in the next five to 10 years. Administrative professionals have a very particular set of skills and they’re not easy to find! Succession planning could be your best strategy to maintain that critical skill set.

Succession planning gives you the opportunity to identify any skill gaps and develop training programs for them. Administrative professionals and administrative staff want to move up in organizations too - if you’re not providing that development, they’ll probably look elsewhere.

What happens without succession planning?

Have you tried hiring for any sort of skilled role lately? It’s a battle for talent. Top people are snatched up quickly and often lured with very lucrative packages. For highly skilled people, demand is outstripping supply in most areas, leaving companies to duke it out.

Without succession planning and bringing up skilled employees internally, your company becomes another player in the battle for talent.

Lack of succession planning leaves you open to risk. It means that if three APs left in the next year, you’d be scrambling to find replacements (and finding good APs is tough, we know!). If you find yourself in the position where you have to hire from scratch, you always end up behind the eight ball.

As we touched on in the last section, administrative staff want to have advancement opportunities. If you don’t have succession planning in place that includes upskilling those people, you can end up in a position where you lose your best employees. It just makes sense to nurture the talent you already have.

What to consider when succession planning for APs

In a nutshell, everything that you do for succession planning for executives, you should also do for administrative professionals. That means activities like: identifying the key skills and experiences that you require, identifying talent to train in those skills, and putting together training programs with succession in mind.

Who should help to identify talent? There’s your HR department and individual managers, of course, but current APs can also help. They know the job and tend to know your other team members, so they’re bound to know who might be a good fit.

Remember that there’s no college degree for administrative professionals. People need to learn through experience and figure out systems and processes. Therefore, consider mentorship programs as a way to bring up talent. They offer the opportunity to learn from the skills and experience of others, which can be invaluable.

Consider the impacts on leadership as well. APs to senior executives often take a leadership/project management role and could leave a huge hole if they left. What impact would there be on your CEO if their AP left and you didn’t have solid backfill? Think about company goals and where you aim to be in one, two, or five years - how will succession planning help?

How to enact your succession plan

The first step to enacting a succession plan is to assess the roles you need to plan for and who you already have that could be trained to move into those roles. Document everything related to the role so that you have a clear picture of what sort of training you will need. That includes outlining everything you would like the role to do (even if there are some things that aren’t currently done by that role now, but you’d like to have happen in the future).

From there, each position should have a development plan. From the administrative professional perspective, investing in professional development courses is a valuable thing to include in the succession planning. Anyone moving into the AP role needs to be able to operate at a high level and will benefit from working in that environment beforehand.

Another good development exercise for your future APs is to get them engaged in committees, boards and with other leaders. This will give them crucial experience working in an executive environment and help them to learn how to work with executives.

Each individual should have a training plan that falls under your succession plan, and the succession plan should be treated as a living document. Stay engaged with your people and know why they’re wanting to move forward. What is their own, unique plan?

Final thoughts

Succession planning is an important task for businesses, yet while it’s often put in place for the C-Suite and other key leadership roles, many don’t think of administrative professionals!

There are several good reasons to include administrative professionals and other administrative roles in your succession planning. The bottom line is that these are people with a set of skills that is vital for the company and the people they serve. Losing an AP tomorrow could have a huge impact

Do you know we offer consulting for corporations and HR leaders to understand your executive team, how it’s functioning, and how to lead and engage toward the future? Book a call with us here.