The Importance of Succession Planning by David Peterson, Managing Partner & Director of Plastics

I had the opportunity to attend NPE 2015 last month in Orlando. What an amazing event and venue. While there, I had the chance to speak with many company leaders about what’s on their priority list when it comes to acquiring, promoting and retaining key talent.

One topic that I heard over and over again was “succession planning.” The plastics industry is seeing shortages of talent, making succession planning more important than ever. Having a well-developed and current strategic plan in place will help your company prepare for the future in these vital areas:

1. Prevent vacancies when baby boomers retire. According to a 2015 Gallup Poll, baby boomers aren’t leaving their jobs in droves as originally expected. However, they are leaving at a steady pace, and many companies are still unprepared for their absence. Therefore, they will find themselves with an impending talent shortage and, consequently, will make quick and rash hiring decisions.

2. Recognize and develop future leaders. Currently, there’s a leadership shortage in the plastics industry and in just about every industry across the board. Companies must seek out those individuals with innate skills and strengths who can become the kind of leaders that a company requires: innovative, motivational, willing to master change and able to move the organization forward. Then, it’s imperative to make an effort to train, develop and retain them. This way, they will be ready and able to step into key positions as needed.

3. Prevent turnover and costs associated. Employees at all levels are less likely to leave a company that is committed to providing meaningful work and opportunities to grow. A continuous flow of engaged people with defined career paths will stop the “revolving door” that can be detrimental to any firm. A high turnover is quite costly. According to The Wall Street Journal, experts estimate that it costs upwards of twice an employee’s salary to find and train a replacement.

4. Maximize company value. Companies with a succession plan in place are more attractive to shareholders and stakeholders. Management teams having a strategy for when they exit, protects the value, integrity and longevity of the company. As a result, your company’s reputation stays positive and in turn, attracts top performers to your company.

5. Guarantee the stability of business operations. Succession planning helps to mitigate risks and ensures business continuity. People are a company’s greatest asset. They can also be its greatest downfall. If your company becomes overly dependent on the services of a few key individuals, it can lead to operational risks that can cause damage when one or more of those key people are no longer there.

With succession planning on the minds of so many plastics companies right now, there are a number of ways to find the talent who can ultimately step-in to fill those current and future roles:

1. Hire more military veterans. As cited in several Plastics News articles in 2013 and 2014, many plastics companies are on a mission to find, hire, train and accommodate U.S. military veterans who possess the skills they look for including leadership, performance under pressure, teamwork, respect for procedures, and integrity.

2. Implement college-level internships. More plastics companies are moving toward creating internship programs at the college level. They consider it a year-round recruiting tool, which means having an ongoing pipeline of future talent, especially in engineering. In addition, interns are an inexpensive resource while at the same time are some of the most highly motivated members of the workforce. allows a company to post a profile free of charge. This way, a company gets exposure to top colleges and candidates without breaking their budget.

3. Rehire retirees to mentor. According to USA Today, one way organizations will succession plan is to pay retirees for their help and expertise to train and mentor promising professionals. These seasoned workers have experience and a tremendous amount of knowledge to share.

4. Build interdepartmental and intergenerational relationships. When ongoing communication and cooperation happens between departments and generations you will see an increase in combined effectiveness, and the best and brightest will emerge. Doing so will help you determine if you have the right internal talent in place or if you need to look outside the company.

5. Hire and promote from within. In many cases, companies lay out a career path they use to retain quality people. This approach fosters loyalty and also positions your company as a place that career-minded individuals want to work. If you hire or promote from within, it also helps you to retain other key people.

6. Acquire talent from outside or competitors. A company may not have confidence that an internal candidate is ready for the position or may require a new leader to execute a new direction. When this is the case, it makes sense to look outside your organization and even at your competition. Hiring from a rival firm can mean bringing on someone who already knows your industry and business, and can bring valuable new knowledge.

Succession planning should be a part of every company’s strategic plan. It’s the vision of where your company will be going in the future and how it will thrive.

Most importantly, it will shape how your company develops and nurtures its people. This assures a continuing sequence and pipeline of qualified people to move up and take over when needed, and it assures that key positions will be filled with the right people able to carry your company into the future.