A little while ago, we wrote a column for Governing magazine about succession planning. The thrust of our work was that only a small fraction of governmental entities are sufficiently prepared to replace employees from within when they quit or retire – and that those that do tend to see very positive results.
We were grateful to receive a note from Ted Zaleski, the Director of Management and Budget in Carroll County, Maryland, which has a population of about 170,000 according to the 2010 census, and adjoins Baltimore County.
As he wrote, it’s “pretty hard to argue against succession planning though there is a case to be made for ‘new blood’. I think most local governments would think good succession planning would be desirable.”
But then Zaleski went on to write that “implementation can be difficult,” and provided a list of some things that can get in the way:
No candidate. You can have a perfectly competent staff without anyone being right for the next job.
Uncertain need. We will all need to be replaced someday, but when is more certain in some situations than others.
Other opportunities. People who want to move up might not stick around until the opportunity opens where they are.
Unhappiness with the current arrangement. I can think of people who were great candidates to move up, but left because they didn’t want to work for the person in the position.
No interest. Sometimes an attractive candidate doesn’t want the job. Sometimes the pay increase often doesn’t seem worth the extra headaches, especially if you become an at-will employee.