Inside Dental Technology
August 2019
Volume 10, Issue 8

Succession Planning for Staff

Prepare now for what to do when a key employee leaves

Brian Forman

It takes proper planning to align talent with an organization's goals. When a key member of the staff separates from service, it is critical to ensure that you have developed enough employees with the capability to backfill that position. Human resources succession planning allows a company to build out a pipeline of talent far in advance so that, ideally, there are no vacant positions for key roles.

The process really begins with the recruitment of employees into the company. For dental laboratories, this means that you are always making sure that you have a strong bench of talent across the board, whether those workers are currently in key positions or not. It is critical to identify candidates in the recruitment process who already possess the necessary skill set to be developed into higher-level opportunities. Cross-training in various departments and shadowing are two ways to foster such capabilities.


Cross-training is very helpful for two reasons. The primary reason involves the systematic development of an employee who may be tapped in the future for advanced roles. Cross-training is also useful if a key member is absent or will be out for an extended period of time; then the worker who has been trained can handle the key member's functions until their return.

It is a good idea to track employees' performance as they learn other roles in the company. Retention is becoming more of a challenge in today's job market due to record low unemployment. Employees are keenly aware of how they are valued and developed. Typically, senior leadership will have discussions about identifying a short list of employees who they feel could benefit from development opportunities. It can be a big investment, especially for smaller laboratories that cannot spare any workers on a regular basis, so choosing the right candidates for this training is crucial.

A Win-Win

There are advantages for both the employee and the employer of having a succession planning program in place. On the employee side, it gives that individual a great opportunity to preview what the next role will be like. It is also a morale booster because the employee can see a much clearer path to advancement, and it gives that person more confidence in their role. Having a good working relationship with their manager is critical as well. Having clear, defined career trajectories is also an important aspect of employee retention.   

Employers benefit from having a succession plan in place by being able to tap into staff who can carry out the goals and mission of the company. Losing a key employee without a solid pipeline of talent can undermine the chances of keeping the business on track. The last thing a business owner wants to do is stymie growth. Tell all laboratory team members about the skilled employees who are ready to step in if or when a key employee leaves the company.

Smooth Transitions

Experienced employees who have been with the company a long time usually have deep knowledge, contacts, and a keen understanding of the business. Try to get them to share this information with the laboratory before they leave. Once they are gone, that resource is not so easily replaced.

Lastly, it is important to keep current with the employment trends in the area. This will help the business recruit new workers and stay competitive. Offering the right mix of benefits and career advancement opportunities along with competitive compensation will only help build the laboratory's talent pipeline and future prospects.

About the Author

Brian Forman is a Human Resources Generalist with Atelier 4 in Long Island City, New York.

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