Why succession planning is important for fleets

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MONCTON, N.B. — If you’re looking to expand your business, you have to identify the people and the skills that you need to make that happen.

That was the message given to attendees of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association’s Transportation Summit during the Succession Planning seminar.

The presentation was given by Trucking HR Canada’s CEO Angela Splinter, and director, programs and services, Tamara Miller and focused on how to replenish your business when key employees retire.

To kick off the discussion, Splinter told the audience why succession planning should be a part of every company’s business plan.

“Managers and supervisors have some of the highest retirement rates as well as your freight claims and safety loss prevention specialists,” said Splinter. “This is a trend that we are predicting will continue, based on our research. When you look at your managers one out of eight of them are over 55 years of age and when you’re looking at your freight claims and safety loss prevention specialists, one out of six are over 55.”

Splinter said that while the driver shortage is on the minds of a lot of transport company executives, other occupations within the industry should not be ignored because of the rising demographic of those in the trucking industry.

According to Statistics Canada, said Splinter, retirement rates for supervisors in the freight transportation industry are among one of the highest in Canada.

To help fleets face this problem head-on, Trucking HR Canada created a four-step plan to help expand your business by replenishing key roles in an efficient and accurate way.

The plan was developed by the organization after researching several fleets across the country, and consolidating the information into four easy, manageable steps.

The plan is as follows:

Prioritize your future business needs

“Planning is key,” said Miller to the audience. “Basically you want to look at how your operations are going to change in the next three to five years and how that’s going to affect you and what you need to do about that. Then, you have to list the positions and skills that are critical to your company. So what leadership positions in your company absolutely cannot be left vacant?”

Miller said once the job roles in your company have been selected as necessary, it is important to take steps to ensure there is always somebody proficient sitting in that chair. 

“Besides the positions that are important in your company, it’s important to think about the type of skill sets that are important for your company’s future,” added Miller.

“So what type of skill set do the people in those positions need to have? If you are looking to expand, are you looking for people who are flexible? You really want to start thinking about the types of skills people need to have in order to get you as a business where you want to be going.”

Review your company’s bench strengths

This part of the plan forces you to turn your attention to your current staff and recognize who could grow into leaders at the company.

“Who do you have on your staff that could potentially be in those senior roles you view as important?” asked Miller.

She told the audience to make sure to consider all sources of talent within the company, especially those who have been underutilized in the workforce like women, those from Generation X and Y, and those with disabilities.

“Develop a list of candidates and select the people you think fit the mould of a being in a senior position,” said Miller.

“There are people who have a core skill that you’ve indentified that you think is important, but they are going to have gaps or areas that they need to develop, and take a look at that. Note what you think is important for those individuals to have.”

Making a list of missing skills from these candidates is important because the third step forces you to indentify the skills those people in your succession plan may be lacking.

Develop the skill sets that make a difference

The third step is closing the knowledge gap between those you’ve listed in your succession plan and the people who are currently working in those positions, said Miller.

She added it is important to work with the individual on a one-on-one basis with their development plan because not only will it show loyalty to your staff but it will secure their own buy-in.

“During these one-on-one conversations, find out from them how they learn best and try to facilitate from that,” Miller said. “There’s a number of different opportunities with staff to develop those skills, like mentoring, coaching or job shadowing.”

Miller also noted that keeping these development plans simple is best, but formalizing the process and creating deadlines for action plans with your candidates will help things go more smoothly.

Monitor and renew your efforts

“Succession planning is an ongoing activity, so you want to make sure you’re constantly monitoring it to make sure its doing what you want it to do,” said Miller. “This just means checking in on progress and taking action as its needed. Your HR department can check in with those people on the succession plan and speak with them on a monthly basis.”

Trucking HR Canada has created an online tool to help fleets who want help with their own succession plans. You can access the online tool by visiting http://bit.do/succession.

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Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface.

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