Most EMS managers today grew up during the cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States, watched on television as the Space Shuttle Columbia blew up, opened a soda with a pull tab, tuned in to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, ate a McDonald's hamburger out of a Styrofoam container and, possibly, fought in Vietnam.
The reality is that we're all growing older and face the eventuality of retirement. Most EMS managers are baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1964. Those born in 1945 will be 62 years old in 2007, and huge numbers will begin retiring and leaving the workforce. This "brain drain" is sure to affect EMS.
As those currently in EMS management roles retire, move on to another EMS organization or change professions, who will fill their shoes? EMS organizations should start thinking now about how to systemically replace management as a way of sustaining organizational performance.
Succession planning is more than an organizational chart with empty boxes that will eventually have names filled in. It's about developing and maintaining strong leadership to ensure that the leaders of the next generation are prepared to step into their new roles. It ensures that replacements have been prepared to fill key vacancies on short notice, groomed to assume greater responsibility and prepared to increase their proficiency. If an EMS organization plans correctly, frontline supervisors and managers are fully prepared to step into positions left vacant by retirement or other forms of attrition.
One crucial first step in succession planning is to identify critical positions and develop job profiles for them. Each profile is similar to a job description and is typically written on a single page. It lists key responsibilities, duties and activities.
Another essential component of succession planning is the development of a replacement chart. This living document lists possible internal successors for each critical position. It describes how ready individuals are to replace the key incumbent and predicts how long it will take to prepare each successor for advancement.
Next, develop high-potential profiles. These are similar to rôsumôs and list important biographical information about the key job incumbent and any individuals identified as possible successors.
Appraisals that rate an employee's performance in their present job are vital. Any advancement is dependent on an employee's current performance. Also consider conducting individual potential assessments that rate the individual's potential for advancement, either to one critically important position or to higher levels of responsibility or technical proficiency.
After someone has been identified as a successor to a key role, departments need to prepare an individual development plan. This plan narrows the gap between what the individual presently knows or does in their current job and what they need to know or do to advance to a future critical position. The individual development plan ƒ typically a long-term plan covering several years ƒ may include various training and work assignment requirements to help them qualify for succession, achieve a higher level of responsibility or exercise increased technical proficiency. The plan assumes that the higher level position demands special training and knowledge and prepares potential successors to succeed in their eventual roles.
Unfortunately, succession planning is either not a priority in many EMS organizations or it occurs too late, after key people have left. I have seen EMS and fire organizations in which one key person held all the secrets. Only one person had the administrator passwords to the computer system, signing authority for bank checks, keys to filing cabinets and access to critical organizational and employee files. Only one person attended key meetings with outside agencies or knew what was happening. However, no EMS organization should ever depend on a single individual. A devastating car accident or other unforeseen incident would bring such an organization to its knees.
If you want to determine the status of your EMS organization's succession planning efforts, download a free, 20-question self-assessment tool, "Succession Planning: Where Are We?," fromwww.gettingbetterallthetime.com.