A Guide to Succession Planning in Manufacturing

Succession planning is something that all industries need to do but in manufacturing, where the loss of the wrong individual (your top engineer or security manager, for instance) can quite literally bring business to a halt, it couldn’t be more crucial.

It doesn’t just mean having the right person waiting in the wings to take over if another employee is promoted, transferred or otherwise vacates their position; it’s also about the processes you have in place to handle the events that will follow with minimal disruption.

Here are our steps to successful succession planning in manufacturing, for businesses large and small:

Identify your most disruptive areas

You need to understand which areas of your business are most vital to its running, then the individuals within those whom much of the responsibility rests upon. What would happen if they moved on, by one way or another, and how well set are you to recover quickly?

This is one which you shouldn’t be afraid to get the team involved on; after all, they’re the ones on the ground, and have a better understanding of what each person undertakes. Through them, you’ll learn where the potential pitfalls lay, and can make a contingency plan for if they were to come to light.

Understand your employees’ goals

This step begins the moment you meet them as far back as interview stage! It’s important to know who wants to go where and achieve what, in order to create a succession plan which works for everyone. Moreover, this can really help motivate your staff and show them that progression is a real, tangible thing – which can do wonders for improving the rate of staff turnover.

Through performance reviews, 1:1s and general, open-forum conversations, make sure you’re being proactive in getting an understanding of where your employees want to be in 1, 5, 10 years’ time; build this into your succession plan. Aligning your needs and their goals simply makes sense.

Cross-train the skills most crucial to your business

What you want to avoid, particularly in a manufacturing setting, is one person knowing it all – and holding the keys to productivity in the palm of their hands as a result. If your team’s skills and education is all in one basket, so to speak, it could leave you without one day – worse yet, without notice – so make sure to cross-train your staff.

Have certain employees undergo shadowing or mentoring on equipment, responsibilities and duties which appeal to them and work with their own goals. Workforces who are always learning are naturally more engaged. This means that you’re setting yourself up should somebody leave, but increasing staff engagement, morale and happiness at the same time.

Finally, it comes down to process

We all put emphasis on our hiring processes, that is, getting staff on board swiftly and smoothly. But what about internal movements?

When key staff members move up or move on, you need to be able to respond quickly. Set a turnkey process for direct promotions, horizontal movements, backfilling and offboarding. Make sure that you can react as you need to; all the steps above mean nothing without the right process in place to facilitate them.

Whichever of the business-critical roles you need to fill, we have an extensive network to pull from to find what you need. And some solid expertise on making sure you’re well set for now and future. Get in touch to learn more about NLG’s staffing and recruiting services, specifically for the manufacturing sector here in North America.

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