• The VET Recruiter
  • TVR Executive Search

Established in 1997

Your trusted partner for Animal Health and Veterinary Recruitment

Select Page

Episode #325 – How to Create and Execute an Effective Succession Plan

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #325 - How to Create and Execute an Effective Succession Plan

Caleb: Welcome to “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health executive recruiter and Veterinary recruiter Stacy Pursell of The VET Recruiter provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health and Veterinary industries. The VET Recruiter’s focus is to solve talent-centric problems for the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. In fact, The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health companies and Veterinary practices hire top talent, while helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

Today, we’ll be talking about how to create and execute an effective succession plan. Welcome, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Caleb. As always, I’m glad to be here with you.

Caleb: Stacy, this is not a topic that we’ve addressed on the podcast, have we?

Stacy: No, not directly. We may have referenced it in passing or mentioned it briefly, but we haven’t devoted an entire podcast episode to it.

Caleb: Why have you decided to do so now?

Stacy: Because it’s a natural part of the employee lifecycle. There’s recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and retention, and then there’s succession planning. This represents a step even beyond retention. It’s one thing to retain an employee, but it’s another to make that employee part of a succession plan have them move up the ranks at your organization.

Caleb: I would think that succession planning would be an important part of any organization’s strategy for its workforce, but that it would be even more critical in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession.

Stacy: Yes, that is the case, specifically because there is a lack of qualified candidates in the job market, especially in the Veterinary profession. We’ve talked at length about the shortage of veterinarians, and that makes retention and succession planning even more important in the grand scheme of things.

Caleb: How would you describe or define succession planning?

Stacy: Great question. Succession planning is a critical aspect of organizational management that ensures the smooth transition of leadership and talent within a company or industry. Establishing and executing an effective succession plan is crucial for maintaining continuity, fostering innovation, and ensuring the delivery of high-quality care to animals.

Caleb: That makes sense. How would you like to attack this topic?

Stacy: Well, I would like to discuss the specific steps involved.

Caleb: Okay, great! What are those steps?

Stacy: The first step is conducting a thorough workforce analysis.

Caleb: What does this entail?

Stacy: This entails identifying key positions within the organization, both in the management and Veterinary roles that are critical to the continued success of the business. Understand the skills, qualifications, and experience required for each role, and assess the current workforce to identify potential successors.

Caleb: We’re not talking about just veterinarians, either, right?

Stacy: That’s right. In the Animal Health industry, this analysis should extend beyond traditional Veterinary roles to include positions related to research and development, product management, regulatory affairs, and sales. A comprehensive understanding of the entire organizational structure ensures that the succession plan addresses the needs of the entire business.

Caleb: What’s the next step?

Stacy: The next step is developing a leadership pipeline. Once key positions have been identified, it is essential to develop a leadership pipeline to nurture and prepare potential successors. This involves implementing training programs, mentorship initiatives, and skill development opportunities to groom individuals for future leadership roles.

Caleb: Because if you’re looking for people to move up the ranks, then you have to create a system for them to do just that.

Stacy: Exactly! In the Veterinary profession, this may include creating pathways for veterinarians to move into managerial positions, equipping them with the necessary business knowledge and leadership skills. Similarly, in the Animal Health industry, individuals with expertise in research or product development may need opportunities to develop leadership skills to take on executive roles.

Caleb: Okay, now that we have a system in place, what’s the next step?

Stacy: The next step is establishing clear criteria for succession.

Caleb: What does this entail?

Stacy: This entails determining the competencies, experience, and skills required for each leadership role and establish transparent guidelines for evaluating potential candidates. In the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession, technical expertise, interpersonal skills, and a commitment to animal welfare are key criteria.

Caleb: What about cultural fit?

Stacy: Great question! Leaders must consider the importance of cultural fit within the organization. Leaders must embody the values and mission of the company to ensure a seamless transition that maintains organizational culture and reputation.

Caleb: Wow, we’ve gone through multiple steps, but we haven’t even reached the point where we start looking at employees for succession. Is that the next step?

Stacy: That is the next step! Identifying high-potential talent is a critical aspect of succession planning. This involves evaluating current employees based on performance, leadership potential, and alignment with the organization’s values.

In the Animal Health industry, this might include individuals who have demonstrated excellence in research, product development, or client relations. In the Veterinary profession, it could involve recognizing veterinarians with exceptional clinical skills and a natural ability to lead.

Caleb: Okay, so now we know which employees we’re targeting with our succession plan. What’s the next step in the process?

Stacy: The next step is creating development plans for the succession of these employees. It’s important to create individualized development plans to prepare them for leadership roles.

Caleb: What do these plans involve?

Stacy: It may involve targeted training programs, mentoring by current leaders, exposure to different facets of the business, and opportunities for skill development. In the Animal Health industry, this could include cross-functional training to enhance understanding of the entire product lifecycle. In the Veterinary profession, it might involve exposure to management responsibilities, such as budgeting and team leadership.

Caleb: I imagine that making these programs individualized is a necessity.

Stacy: Absolutely! Tailoring development plans to the specific needs and aspirations of each successor improves the likelihood of a successful transition.

Something else to keep in mind is that an effective succession plan works best against a backdrop of continuous learning and education.

Caleb: What do you mean?

Stacy: It’s important for employers to establish a culture of ongoing education and professional development to ensure that potential successors stay abreast of the latest advancements in their respective fields. This can be facilitated through partnerships with educational institutions, attendance at conferences, and participation in industry associations.

Part of this involves encouraging individuals to pursue advanced degrees, certifications, or specialized training that aligns with the organization’s needs and future challenges. This commitment to continuous learning not only benefits the individual, but also enhances the organization’s overall capabilities.

Caleb: That makes perfect sense. Is there anything else that’s part of the company culture in terms of creating an effective succession plan?

Stacy: Yes, there is, and that’s building a mentoring culture.

Establishing a mentoring culture within the organization fosters knowledge transfer, skill development, and the cultivation of leadership qualities. In the Veterinary profession, experienced veterinarians can mentor younger colleagues in clinical skills, patient care, and client communication. In the Animal Health industry, mentors can provide insights into product development, regulatory processes, and industry trends.

Caleb: Something tells me that we’re not done yet. Is there another step in the process?

Stacy: Yes, there is, and that’s implementing a leadership development program.

Caleb: You mean something specifically for leadership and not necessarily succession?

Stacy: Yes, but you can see how the two go together. This leadership program can include a combination of training sessions, workshops, and mentoring relationships. The program should be designed to address the specific needs of the industry, taking into account the unique challenges and opportunities in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession.

Caleb: Wow, there is a lot that goes into an effective succession plan!

Stacy: There definitely is, and we haven’t even reached the monitoring and evaluation stage yet.

Caleb: What’s involved with that?

Stacy: First, you need what are called key performance indicators or KPIs to assess the effectiveness of the plan. Then solicit feedback from both current leaders and potential successors to make continuous improvements.

Caleb: This sounds like something that would need to be continuously tracked. It’s not like you can create it and put it into motion and then forget about it.

Stacy: Oh, no. You can’t do that, but the payoff is worth it when it works. This is why talent reviews are important, so that you can make sure the succession plan remains aligned with the organization’s strategic goals. If necessary, you can adjust the development plans, the criteria or the training programs, to address anything that changes or if a specific need arises.

Caleb: Stacy, I have a question. What about the size of the organization? I can see larger organizations needing a succession plan. But do small and medium-sized organizations really need them?

Stacy: That’s another great question, and the answer is yes, small and medium-sized organizations also need succession plans. Even if there are fewer employees, there are still tangible benefits involved. For example, the emphasis may be on identifying potential successors among existing staff, creating opportunities for skill development, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

And of course, cross-training is also an option. Cross-training ensures that there is a pool of individuals capable of stepping in leadership positions when needed. This can be beneficial at a smaller organization, especially if an employee quits and leaves a vacuum in their wake.

Caleb: Stacy, you mentioned the link between an organization’s succession plan and improved rates of employee retention earlier. Can you elaborate more on that link?

Stacy: Certainly. A well-articulated succession plan not only serves as a roadmap for the organization’s future leadership, but it also reassures employees about their career growth and development within the company. And there are multiple reasons why this is the case.

First, openly communicating the succession plan demonstrates the organization’s commitment to transparency. This transparency helps build trust and confidence among employees, as they feel valued and informed about the company’s future direction.

Second, a well-communicated succession plan can be a powerful motivational tool. Knowing that the organization is invested in their professional growth and has a plan for their future within the company fosters a sense of commitment and engagement.

Third, it reduces uncertainty and anxiety. By clearly articulating the succession plan, employees gain insights into potential career paths, development opportunities, and the skills required for advancement. This knowledge reduces ambiguity, alleviates concerns about job stability, and helps employees make informed decisions about their long-term commitment to the organization.

Fourth, communicating a succession plan sends a powerful message that the organization is invested in the long-term growth and success of its employees. It showcases a commitment to nurturing talent from within, providing training, mentorship, and advancement opportunities.

Caleb: I can see how having a succession plan and communicating that plan to employees can foster a sense of loyalty among those employees. Is that because the organization is engaging with them in a meaningful way and the employee knows that engagement is likely to continue?

Stacy: Yes, that is exactly the case! Employees are more likely to stay with an organization that demonstrates a vested interest in their success and provides a clear roadmap for advancement. Loyalty, in turn, contributes to higher retention rates and a stable, committed workforce.

Caleb: It seems as though this is a “win-win” situation for everyone involved, the employees and the employer.

Stacy: Yes, that would be accurate to say. In fact, there are two main ways that it contributes to a “win-win” situation.

Caleb: What ways are those?

Stacy: First, it encourages skill development. Knowing the skills and competencies required for future roles, employees can proactively seek training and development opportunities to align themselves with the organization’s needs. This self-driven approach not only benefits employees in terms of career growth, but it also contributes to a more skilled and adaptable workforce for the organization.

And second, it mitigates talent drain and succession gaps. By communicating the succession plan, organizations actively work to mitigate talent drain and succession gaps. When employees are aware of the talent pipeline and potential career progression, they are more likely to stay with the organization, reducing the risk of losing critical knowledge and skills during leadership transitions.

Caleb: Stacy, we’re just about out of time for today? Is there anything else that you’d like to add about succession plans?

Stacy: Yes. Employers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession that prioritize and effectively communicate their succession plans are better positioned to retain skilled and dedicated employees. This helps to ensure continuity and success not in the short term, but also for the long haul.

In addition, succession planning is not a one-time activity, but it’s an ongoing process that adapts to the evolving needs of the industry. By investing in the development of talented people, organizations can navigate the challenges that currently exist in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession, helping them to create a “win-win” situation for themselves and their employees.

Caleb: Stacy, how can our listeners reach out to you if they have any questions, either about this episode or about their Animal Health or Veterinary career?

Stacy: You can visit The VET Recruiter website at www.thevetrecruiter.com, and if you are  listening to this podcast episode, then there’s a good chance you have visited our site. I would also recommend navigating to the “Contact Us” section in the main navigation. On that page, visitors will see multiple ways in which you can reach out to us.

Caleb: Stacy, thank you so much for joining us today and for all of this great information about how to create and execute an effective succession plan.

Stacy: It’s been my pleasure, and I look forward to our next episode of The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider!

Caleb: If you are an Animal Health employer needing to hire Animal Health professionals or a Veterinary practice needing to hire a veterinarian, The VET Recruiter can help. If you are an experienced Animal Health professional or veterinarian ready to make your next career move reach out to Stacy at The VET Recruiter today. Okay everyone, we will see you back here again next week!

Learn More About This Hot Candidate

"*" indicates required fields