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Succession Planning

Succession Planning Mission Statement

Succession planning at CSUN is a process to identify, attract, and develop a diverse community of talent that models the Leadership Principles, to ensure continuity in the mission, stewardship, and operations of the campus, and to anticipate future administrator vacancies and transitions.

CSUN succession planning seeks to move the campus, and individual areas within it, forward in the pursuit of excellence in an environment where employees and students succeed.

Employee development and mentoring are essential to succession planning by providing opportunities to potential leaders. CSUN benefits by:

  • retaining talent
  • strengthening skills
  • nurturing a positive campus culture and environment
  • encouraging the emergence of new ideas in furtherance of the university’s mission and Leadership Principles.

Identifying Potential Leaders

How do I identify people who may become leaders in the future?

  • One way to figure out who may become a leader is to look for people who self-identify as interested in more than their current job. They may demonstrate interest in a career beyond their current position. They are typically self-starters, take initiative to go above-and-beyond, and demonstrate other leadership qualities.
  • Another way to find out about people’s potential is when you receive unsolicited (or solicited!) feedback on an employee’s performance from other areas. People whose work reflects well on your team have potential!
  • Look for staff who ask thoughtful questions in meetings, send an email with additional thoughts after a meeting, ask for feedback on how to improve performance or those who volunteer for assignments – are other ways to identify potential leaders.The upper management of the department may also want to have a formal/informal annual conversation to identify potential leaders and rising stars and then provide development opportunities for those employees.

Culture of Opportunity

How do I create and maintain a climate/culture in which people know they can grow?

  • Good leaders attract and retain employees who can become good leaders in higher education. When an employee has opportunities elsewhere, leaders should support and encourage their growth.
  • Effective leaders demonstrate competence in their daily actions, including expressing interest in the activities and accomplishments of the staff whom they supervise.
  • A culture of competence, growth, and learning is demonstrated by strong expertise, commitment to service, and opportunities for professional development.
  • Avoid the tendency to gravitate toward and mentor only those who you are comfortable with or most similar to. This may be related to unconscious bias. We really need to be looking to provide opportunities for employees who hold promise/potential that are from diverse backgrounds.
  • Employees flourish when they know their opinion matters and they are heard.
  • A learning culture is one in which employees feel safe to ask questions, recommend changes in processes, and occasionally fail (in order to learn).
  • Internal promotions allow leadership continuity by a known entity who has experience with, demonstrated understanding of, and commitment to the organization and its culture.
  • An effective culture is one in which people know they can grow and there is no impression of favoritism.

Informal Opportunities

How do I move toward succession planning in day-to-day activities?

  • Succession planning may occur informally every day. This can be as simple as taking the time to demonstrate and explain a new concept.
  • Significantly, providing context beyond the task-at-hand can provide employees with a greater understanding of how their work fits into the larger picture. To move up in an organization, individuals need to understand the context in which their unit, the university, its surrounding community, the university system, and state government work.
  • Cross-training may help build talent along with ensuring coverage of key functions.

How do I help employees grow?

  • Effective leaders model subject matter expertise and mentor and coach individuals with growth potential.
  • Growth may come from actions as simple as giving an employee the opportunity to serve on a committee or to more regularly interact with other areas.
  • Growth may also come from work on various projects, conducting research, and/or working with or observing others on the job.
  • Providing a book or an article for the employee to read and then having a follow-up discussion.

Formal Succession Planning

What is formal succession planning?

  • Identifying potential leaders and recommending they participate in professional development or attain an additional degree may be part of a formal succession plan.
  • The department or division may have additional leadership programming that could benefit your employees. Additionally, formal assignment of a mentor can be part of succession planning.
  • Normal campus promotional processes (i.e., reclassification, in-range progression, or MPP reassignment) serve as means of promoting those taking on more responsibility and showing interest in leadership.
  • Well-defined roles and desired proficiency help ensure we are evaluating competencies that lead to leadership success.

How Do I Know It’s Working?

  • It is easier to assess the outcomes of formal succession planning because goals can be set in advance and level of attainment can be determined for any period. Tracking informal succession planning is a little bit more difficult. It may require intentionality—planning and tracking informal methods and their results.
  • One obvious way to measure whether you are succeeding at succession planning is to see if people are indeed moving up within the organization. And, remember that if you’ve created a safe, growth and learning culture, you may lose employees to other parts of the university or other employers. This is still success because it demonstrates you are building talent and providing opportunities for career growth.
  • Another way to measure whether you are succeeding at succession planning is to see if others rely on and trust the individuals to provide information and carry out responsibilities in your absence, and if the individuals feel confident in providing the support.
  • You may know it’s working because people want to come work for you. They know they’ll learn a lot and that there are opportunities for career progression because of the growth they will have while working for you.